Space is now officially home to the known universe’s first “space nation”. Asgardia launched its very first satellite, Asgardia-1, into orbit on November 12, 2017. Only about the size of a soccer ball, the satellite traveled aboard a NASA commercial cargo vehicle to make its two-day journey from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia to the International Space Station. The “nanosat” contains .5 terabytes of data from 18,000 of Asgardia’s 114,000 citizens to demonstrate the nation’s ability to store data independently of any earthbound state or corporation; it also contains items of national heritage, including Asgardia’s flag, coat of arms, and developing constitution.

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Named after Norse mythology’s city of the skies, Asgardia was founded by Russian scientist Dr. Igor Ashubeyli in October 2016. Since the country’s founding, people of many nationalities have signed up to become Asgardians. “I really want to be able to see if human beings are able to have more opportunity to express their opinions,” said Rayven Sin, an Asgardian artist based in Hong Kong, according to CNN. “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.”

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Once properly prepped and equipped at the International Space Station, Asgardia-1 will take flight and enter orbit on its own, where it is expected to remain for five to eighteen months before it burns up. However, this is only the beginning of Asgardia’s story. The space nation plans to seek official recognition from the United Nations as an independent nation, a challenging feat to say the least, as well as constructing orbiting habitats on which Asgardians can live. Even Ashubeyli acknowledges the challenges ahead. “We have to be like a normal country. All countries have problems, and soon we will have the same problems,” he said to CNN. “But we will have more than normal countries because we are not on Earth.”

Via CNN

Images via James Vaughn/Asgardia