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Have you ever wondered what they do with those massive spacecraft used for exploration after they’ve outlived their usefulness? It turns out they’re buried deep in the ocean, far from any landmass and almost forgotten until now.
“Deep beneath the Pacific Ocean at Point Nemo, the region between New Zealand and South America farthest from any landmass, lies a mass grave containing hundreds of discarded carcasses.”
“These bodies, often shattered into several pieces as they descended,were once satellites, rockets, space stations, and other spacecraft carefully steered into the remote patch of ocean, dubbed the Spacecraft Cemetery, when they ran out of fuel or were otherwise decommissioned.”
In 2017, Dave Mosher of Business Insider decided to take a closer look at the graveyard for those long-forgotten man-made objects that one floated through outer space. And what he found is nothing short of incredible:
“To ‘bury’ something in the cemetery, space agencies have to time a crash over that spot. Smaller satellites don’t generally end up at Point Nemo, since, as NASA explains, ‘the heat from the friction of the air burns up the satellite as it falls toward Earth at thousands of miles per hour. Ta-da! No more satellite.'”
So what will you find at Point Nemo? Try to wrap your mind around the “junk” that’s been discarded so far:
“Buried under more than two miles of water is the Soviet-era MIR space station, more than 140 Russian resupply vehicles, several of the European Space Agency’s cargo ships (like the Jules Verne ATV), and even a SpaceX rocket, according to Smithsonian.com.“
And that’s just a partial list! All total, at least 300 spacecraft now call Point Nemo their perpetual home. Ironically, they’ve gone from the greatest heights of outer space to one of the deepest points on the planet. How’s that for a fall from grace?
The burial of these space vehicles is part of a larger effort to eliminate what can best be called “space junk.” And the removal of these objects is essential to future space missions:
“Some 4,000 satellites currently orbit Earth at various altitudes. There’s space for more — even the 4,425 new internet-providing satellites that Elon Musk and SpaceX wish to launch in the near future.”
“In addition to all those satellites, there are thousands of uncontrolled rocket bodies orbiting earth, along with more than 12,000 artificial objects larger than a fist, according to Space-Track.org. That’s not to mention countless screws, bolts, flecks of paint, and bits of metal.”
The next time you’re at the beach, look across the ocean and consider that somewhere deep beneath that great expanse of blue is a tomb for spacecraft that once passed by planets and stars but have now been relegated to the depths of Davey Jones’ Locker.
Featured Image Via NASA/Victor Tangermann