To boldly go... scientists plan independent 'space nation'
A space nation, independent of countries on Earth, could be founded after a team of engineers, scientists and legal experts put forward proposals for an extra-terrestrial state.
The project, which is led by Russian scientist Dr Igor Ashurbeyli, Chairman of UNESCO's Science of Space committee, aims to create an area in space which is beyond the control of individual nations.
Under current space law, government's must authorise and supervise space programmes run from their own countries even if they are commercial.
But the group of scientists say that by creating a new nation, space activities can "flourish free from the tight restrictions of state control that currently exist".
The team has named the new state 'Asgardia' - derived from Asgard, one of the nine world's in Norse mythology.
One of the early developments planned is the creation of a state-of-the-art protective shield to prevent asteroids, space debris and coronal mass ejections from the Sun.
The public is being asked to help design the nation's flag and 100,000 citizenships were made available at yesterday's launch.
"Asgardia is a fully fledged and independent nation, and a future member of the United Nations - with all the attributes this status entails," Dr Ashburbeyli said.
"The essence of Asgardia is 'Peace in Space', and the prevention of Earth's conflicts being transferred into space.
"Asgardia is also unique from a philosophical aspect - to serve entire humanity and each and everyone, regardless of his or her personal welfare and the prosperity of the country where they happened to be born."
The consortium plans to launch the first Asgardia satellite in 2017, with the project developing from there.
Of the 196 nation states on Earth, just 13 - USSR, USA, France, Japan, China, UK, India, Russia, Ukraine, Israel, Iran, South Korea and North Korea - and one regional organisation, the European Space Agency, ESA, have launched satellites.
Professor David Alexander, Director of the Rice Space Institute at Rice University, Houston, Texas said: "The mission of Asgardia is to create opportunities for broader access to space, enabling non-traditional space nations to realise their scientific aspirations is exciting."
The team is planning a state-of-the-art protective shield for all humankind from cosmic man-made and natural threats to life on earth, such as space debris, coronal mass ejections and asteroid collisions.
There are estimated to be more than 20,000 traceable objects of man-made space debris that potentially pose a dangerous situation in near-Earth orbits.
The scientists are proposing to launch the first satellite next year, independent of any nation states. The impact of the Chelyabinsk meteorite which crashed over a major Russian town as recently as 2013, injuring 1,100 people and damaging 4000 buildings, is a reminder of the threat that natural objects pose.
Whilst steps have already been taken by the UN to identify potentially hazardous scenarios, Asgardia will build on these developments to help offer a more comprehensive mechanism.
Dr Joseph Pelton, former dean at the International Space University, Strasbourg, France said: "The Asgardia project, among other things, may help prepare better answers to the future governance of outer space - a topic of major concern to the United Nations. (© Daily Telegraph, London)