Thousands apply to join space station nation Asgardia

Artist's impression of Asgardia (James Vaughan/supplied)
Artist's impression of Asgardia (James Vaughan/supplied)

More than 270,000 people have applied to leave Earth aboard a proposed space station that its backers hope one day will become a nation.

Called Asgardia, it's the brainchild of Russian scientist and businessman Igor Ashurbeyli, who heads the Vienna-based Aerospace International Research Center, which is directing the project.

He joked last week while announcing the project he would be labelled a "crazy Russian rocket scientist" talking "nonsense", but he's deadly serious.

"Asgardia is the prototype of a free and unrestricted society which holds knowledge, intelligence and science at its core along with the recognition of the ultimate value of each human life," he wrote on his website.

"You can join like-minded people on this new exciting step in fostering an extended future for humankind."

Asgardia is named after the home of the Norse gods. A competition will be held to choose its national anthem and flag.

Since announcing it on Wednesday, Dr Ashurbeyli claims to have received 279,716 registrations from more than 200 countries.

"Soon we will become a member of the UN."

But Professor Sa'id Mosteshar, director of the London Institute of Space Policy and Law, told the BBC it was unlikely any country would recognise Asgardia as its own state.

"The Outer Space Treaty… accepted by everybody says very clearly that no part of outer space can be appropriated by any state," he said, adding that without any territory, Asgardia didn't stand much chance.

If it ever gets off the ground, Dr Ashurbeyli says Asgardia will "serve humanity", stand for "peace in space", and will launch from a country that hasn't signed the Outer Space Treaty, likely Ethiopia or Kenya.

Joseph Pelton, director emeritus of the Space and Advanced Communications Research Institute at George Washington University, is a senior member of the Asgardia team. He told media last week the Asgardia project would include a range of satellites capable of protecting the Earth from inbound asteroids and solar flares.

The first satellite has apparently been paid for, but subsequent launches and the space station itself will be crowdfunded, says Dr Ashurbeyli.

Asgardia is the third planned private mission to colonise space, following Mars One and Elon Musk's SpaceX Interplanetary Transport System announced in September.