By Udita Shukla
Dr Igor Ashurbeyli is an Azerbaijan-born Russian scientist, and the founder of Aerospace International Research Center—an interdisciplinary research institute of the Austrian Academy of Sciences. Lately, he has attracted international attention with the launch of a CubeSat named Asgardia-1. CubeSat is essentially a miniature version of a regular satellite, launched in space as secondary payload solely for research purposes.
The satellite explained
What makes Asgardia-1 the first of its kind is the goal to which it caters—future space nation of the Space Kingdom of Asgardia, free from the shackles of earthly geopolitical forces and communal, ethnic and racist prejudices. Presently, Asgardia-1 is loaded only with five hundred gigabytes of pictures and text. The constituents of the “nanosat” embrace family photographs of eighteen thousand Asgardians, and digital representations of Asgardia’s national flag, coat of arms and constitution. The satellite was set off on its orbital journey on November 12 onboard NASA’s Cygnus aircraft on its routine resupply mission to the International Space Station (ISS). Asgardia-1 will be launched in its intended orbit by December this year.
A nation in outer space
As insane as it may seem, the Ashurbeyli’s dedication towards the project can be gauged from the granular details unveiled during a press conference in June. The conference witnessed June 18 being declared as the Asgardian National Unity Day, with an open invitation to future aspiring residents to vote upon constitutional and national symbols. Moreover, the same day was marked as Day 01 of the national calendar. According to Dr Ashurbeyli, the ultimate objective of this project is to establish a “peaceful society” with seamless access to space technologies and sealed from space threats like man-made space debris, asteroids, etc. Although Asgardian residents will remain earth-based for the time being, the launch of Asgardia certainly edges them a step closer to a future fully matured nation in outer space. As per Ashurbeyli, “We selected NASA as a reliable partner because we have to meet the commitments that I made thirteen months ago.”
The citizenship of Asgardia is entirely free to any aspiring inhabitant, the only requirements being the age of over eighteen years, an email address, and no criminal charges at the time of application. Rayven Sin, a Hong Kong-based artist and a citizen of Asgardia says, “I really want to be able to see if human beings are able to have more opportunity to express their opinions. The society we live in now—everything seems to be either capitalism or communism—there’s a lot of conflict. As a human being, I would hope (to see) if we could have other ways (of living). For a better life, and for more options.” Having already proclaimed himself as the Head of Nation of the Space Kingdom of Asgardia, nominations are open to submit names for the position of the “Space Senator”. Additionally, Asgardia also has its own constitution and cryptocurrency (dubbed Solar). Given these credentials, Dr Ashurbeyli has already applied to the United Nations for a membership and its (Asgardia’s) recognition as an independent space nation.
A dicey situation
The world has arrived at a point of inevitable transformation. Witnessing political deadlocks amongst vocal world leaders, global economic upheavals and technological disruptions owing to the advent of artificial intelligence, the discovery of extraterrestrial life would open a whole new dimension of the moral, ethical and social dilemma. Firstly, if we do happen to stumble upon an alien world, it is hard to predict how technologically and mentally superior or inferior a species they would be. Secondly, as humans, we are extremely sceptical and cautious of anything (or, anyone) unfamiliar to or different from us. The cultural and inter-religious conflicts that permeate the social fabric of our society are a testimony to our innate fear of the unknown. This said, what attitude we adopt towards our new “guests”, and, how they perceive us, are questions that have been given little thought to but, perhaps, they hold much greater relevance than anything else in this age-old debate of the existence of alien life.
Throughout the past few decades, the scientific community has remained busy refining the technology of artificial intelligence and human-like machines. Today, the very advocates of trans-humanism are directing our attention to the lethal threats robots and smart algorithms pose to the human civilisation. Machines can still be dismantled and de-activated if they become dangerous. On the flip side, it would do good to remember that extraterrestrials (if they do exist) are out of the ambit of our knowledge, understanding and even imagination. Evidently, there might not be any way of escape out of a dissension created between two civilizations that have never known each other, or, possibly never heard of each other.
This account is not intended to spread cynicism but engenders a sense of responsibility toward a society that is already threatened by encroaching technology and faces another potential entrant. As intriguing and adventurous as it may sound, a possible discovery of extraterrestrial civilisation stands way above any millennial scientific milestone up till now, both in terms of global impact and the mystery associated with it. With a potential nation stationed in outer space, a possible Mars colony, whether the world is really up for a “War of the Worlds”, will be seen only as future space researches unfold!
Featured Image Source: Pixabay