Space WTF

“Aiming to open up access to space technology, protect Earth from cosmic threats and foster peace, proposals for a new space nation have been unveiled”

According the The Grauniad, there’s a new space scam afoot. A space nation, that’s not exactly planning to go to space. And it sounds extremely vague: they want to get 100,000 signatures and apply for nationhood with the UN; as if that is a real thing. Ask the people of Palestine how hard it is to become a state according to the UN, if you’re wondering.



The Asgardia concept website is here. It claims to be wanting to launch its first satellite in 2017 – well, unless the image above is a really really zoomed-in picture of a concept satellite about the size of a golf ball, that’s not likely to happen.

Apparently they mistook Elite:Dangerous for a documentary. Or they looked at the huge amount of money that has been raised through a kickstarter for Star Citizen (about $60m) and thought “this ought to be easy.”

There will be traffic. Outside Guest Installation, the mail slot is jammed

There will be traffic. Outside Guest Installation, the mail slot is jammed

In Elite, “ocellus style” stations are huge affairs with populations of millions, but it’s in a science fiction universe where you can mine asteroids easily and emergy and gravity problems have been “solved” by scooping hydrogen out of stellar coronas because, uh, gameplay.

Approaching a station in M/V Longshot, CMDR Badger commanding

Approaching a station in M/V Longshot, CMDR Badger at the helm

I’m not trying to point any fingers but the Asgardiaholes appear to have lifted a lot of their idea from a game.  A game that plays so fast and loose with physics that it’s pretty much got as much to do with reality as World of Warcraft does.

Asgardia’s site says:

Ascardia technology development will be an ongoing and evolving process supported by inputs from experts in different parts of the world, individuals and collective organisations.

I assume that means that they’re getting consulting help from the Raelians, or something. They should have asked the Elite: Dangerous players. Our screenshots are better.

Approaching Hutton Orbital

Approaching Hutton Orbital

In the game universe of Elite, facilities like Hutton Orbital, above, are huge. See the lit landing pad center top? That’s the size of a football field. That orbital represents more mass than humanity has gotten out of Earth’s gravity well, by some large multiple. And the problem of humans surviving in space-biomes has been solved. Yay! At least in Elite’s fictional universe, we’re expected to believe that the metals and stuff are mined from conveniently placed asteroid belts and (mysterious fabrication-y stuff) the orbitals are assembled without having to haul buckets of stuff from a nearly planetary surface.

You are, however, encouraged to submit your design for the Asgardia Flag.

National Flag of Asgardia should symbolise its values and aspirations as described in The Concept.

Please submit your design and a brief explanation.

The contests is open to anyone. Everyone is invited to vote on the submitted entries.

I would have hoped that such forward-thinkers would have avoided nationalism entirely. Since their idea is that Any human living on Earth can become a citizen of Asgardia they have, more or less, declared their intention to bypass Earth’s system of nationalism.

Once the laughter dies down, I wonder if this is a tax dodge. Maybe Asgardiaholes is going to be the non-orbital virtual Grand Cayman of the sucker of the future.

Asteroid mining on the edge of two improbable planetary rings

Asteroid mining on the edge of two improbable planetary rings


The universe in Elite:Dangerous is procedurally generated – a really clever trick in which you make all the random “dice rolls” from a single seeded pseudorandom-number generator. That way you don’t actually have to store anything except player data, since all the “dice rolls” roll the same every time and everyone gets the same universe.

Frontier Developments, PLC, that wrote Elite, did try to make the “Stellar Forge” model pretty good; things are sort of mostly where they belong according to our current understanding of solar system dynamics. Sometimes you get oopsies like the one above, and – inevitably – players like myself post screenshots of “Oh look two planets with intersecting rings! That would be really cool-looking from a distance!”  I once found a star with a planet orbiting right on its corona. The game didn’t render that very well, I think the real scene would have looked pretty dramatic indeed.

This is a pretty cool video a fellow did by rendering all the Elite:Dangerous assets to scale.


  1. says

    Now that Bezos and Musk (with Branson) are hyping private space travel and colonization, I bet we’re going to see a lot of con artists coming out of the woodwork with space stories.

  2. says

    Babylon 5 was bigger

    Interesting question!
    I updated my OP with a link to a video about scale in Elite.

    Busting a scroll of Google tells me the stations in Elite are about 2km square.
    Babylon 5 is supposedly 8km long and about 2km around. So it’s substantially larger.

  3. Dunc says

    Something that occurred to me the other day, whilst thinking about all this Mars colonisation horseshit: if you want to colonise an alien world in order to protect humanity from extinction-level threats, your best bet at present is to colonise the deep ocean. You get all the excitement of living a precarious existence in an incredibly hostile environment, but all of the fundamental technical challenges have been solved, you have easy access to water and (assuming you park yourself next to a hydrothermal vent) effectively unlimited amounts of free energy, it’s really cheap and easy to get material and equipment there (you just charter a container ship, sail to your location, weigh everything down, and chuck it over the side), it’s relatively easy to get back, and it’s even teeming with exciting alien life (which you can probably eat!). You’re not only proof against planetary catastrophes like dinosaur-killer impacts and flood basalt eruptions, you’re also protected against various cosmic calamities that would sterilise the surface of every rock in the solar system simultaneously, thanks to a few miles of radiation shielding.

    Of course, it does have the disadvantage of not looking like the popular pulp sci-fi of the mid 20th century, and doesn’t involve looking in the direction our culture has traditionally associated with God and and Heaven, but hey, were all super-rational here, right?

    Getting back to the OP: these people make the Seasteaders look good.

  4. John Morales says

    I note the other sigil is the Flower of Aphrodite.

    So — a melange of Greek procreation, Egyptian protection, Norse paradise.

    Such semiotics!

  5. says

    Not to spoiler much, but Neal Stephenson’s “Seveneves” has a bit of that. Do you hide in orbit, in space, down a mineshaft, or deep under water. I agree with you. Kim Stanley Robinson makes a similar point in “our generation ships will sink” – if we can’t plausibly ride out a disaster deep under water, forget about Mars or asteroid belts or any of that.

    Richard Cowper’s “Profundis” is about a generations sub after a calamity, I recall it was depressing but good. Now I may have to reread it.