June 25, 2018 / 7:31 PM / 3 months ago

'Space kingdom' seeks citizens for life beyond Earth very soon

(This version of the June 25th story changes paragraph 9 to make clear that membership fee does not yet apply)

VIENNA (Reuters) - Feel like the world is going to the dogs? Want to get away from it all? Here’s a solution: become a citizen of the nation of Asgardia and hope it makes good on its promise to colonize the moon.

Asgardia was founded just 20 months ago, and it already has about 200,000 citizens, a constitution and an elected parliament. It has a leader, Igor Ashurbeyli, who was inaugurated on Monday.

It also has grandiose ambitions. It wants to build up a population of 150 million within 10 years. It plans to set up “space arks” with artificial gravity in outer space where humans could live permanently.

“This day will certainly be recorded in the annals of the greatest events in the history of humankind,” Ashurbeyli said in his inaugural speech to an audience of several hundred in the Hofburg, Vienna’s former imperial palace.

Lembit Opik, Asgardia's Head of Nation Igor Ashurbeyli and Yun Zhao attend the inauguration ceremony of Asgardia's first Head of Nation in Vienna, Austria June 25, 2018. REUTERS/Lisi Niesner

“We have thus established all branches of government. I can therefore declare with confidence that Asgardia – the first space nation of the united humankind – has been born,” said Ashurbeyli, a Russian engineer, computer scientist and businessman.

Asgardia - named after Asgard, a world in the sky in Norse mythology - says its citizens now live in more than 200 countries, outnumbering the United Nations’ 193 member states. Becoming a citizen online is free.

It wants to attract the 2 percent of the world’s population that is “most creative”. Asked how that was working out so far, Ashurbeyli said, “Citizenship selection will continue. It might even involve IQ tests.”

Ashurbeyli said he intends to have satellites providing Internet access around the globe in five to seven years, space arks operating in 10 to 15 years, and finally to establish a permanent settlement on the moon within 25 years.

Asked about Asgardia’s funding in an interview, Ashurbeyli referred to a “citizenship fee” of 100 euros a year. A spokeswoman later said that was “just a proposal at this stage, and it is still entirely free to join Asgardia until anything has been formally approved by parliament”.

It also plans to collect taxes on businesses and private income, which it says will be kept very low.

Slideshow (7 Images)

“For this early phase of Asgardian nationhood ... I am primarily responsible for its financing, along with a number of other donors who are citizens of Asgardia,” he said.

Reporting by Francois Murphy and Boris Kavic, editing by Larry King

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