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Practice English Speaking&Listening with: The World's Only Spacecraft Graveyard!

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Few people have ever seen the loneliest place on our planet, Point Nemo.

Nope, its not in Antarctica.

This spot lies more than 13,000 ft deep in the South Pacific Ocean, and is further from

land than any other point on Earth.

But that's not the only amazing thing Point Nemo is famous for.

Once, someone decided that it would make a perfect place to crash defunct satellites

- and that's how Point Nemo has become the world's only spacecraft graveyard.

The Oceanic Point of Inaccessibility, which is another name for Point Nemo, is the most

remote place on Earth.

In fact, it's so isolated, that at any given moment, the people closest to this location

are probably astronauts!

Point Nemo is surrounded by more than 1,400 miles of water in any direction.

Why am I telling you about the Oceanic Point of Inaccessibility?

Well, the thing is, this spot has a much closer connection to space than you might think!

Right now, somewhere above your head, thousands of artificial satellites are orbiting our

planet.

Like any other machine, a satellite can't function forever.

Usually, after about 15 years, its life is over.

But imagine all these hundreds of satellites going out of service.

The question is: what next?

Are they just supposed to stay there circling our planet forever?

But then, in a couple of decades, we would hardly see the stars behind the curtain of

floating space-junk!

Well, I'm exaggerating, but you get the idea.

There are two ways to get rid of dead satellites, and the choice depends on how big it is, and

how high it is.

If a satellite's orbit lies very high above our planet, it's easier to blast it into outer

space than return it to Earth.

Besides, it takes much less fuel.

As a result, they end up in an eerie place, which is called a "graveyard orbit."

This orbit is 200 miles farther from Earth than that of the farthest active satellite,

which is about 22,300 miles!

But if a satellite isn't large and is moving relatively low, engineers use what fuel is

left in its tanks to slow it down.

As a result, the thing just falls out of its orbit and starts to approach Earth at the

breakneck speed of over 17,000 miles per hour.

In this case, the heat coming from the friction of entering the atmosphere burns up the satellite.

However, in this case, the satellite's operators must prove that if it falls on its own, the

probability of property damage or human injury is lower than 1 in 10,000.

Which they typically can with relatively small space crafts.

But what about the big stuff, like large satellites or even space stations?

The problem with them is that they might not burn up entirely before they reach the surface

of our Earth, which is a terrible safety risk.

That's why, if chances are more than 1 in 10,000, operators must perform a "controlled

de-orbiting."

That's when the Point of Inaccessibility comes into play.

Aerospace engineers appreciate that they "can put things down" in Point Nemo without hitting

anything.

On the other hand, "burying" a defunct satellite in the spacecraft cemetery requires some outstanding

skills.

First and foremost, space agencies must time a crash-landing so that it happens right over

the necessary spot.

And that's sometimes easier said than done.

In September 2011, China launched its first space station, Tiangong-1.

Everything went great until the space agency lost control of the station in 2016.

Having officially ended its service, the station had to re-enter the Earth's atmosphere in

2018, but no-one knew where it would crash.

That meant that 8.5 tons of titanium frame and fuel tanks wrapped in glass fiber were

headed toward a landing at a speed of about 200 miles per hour.

And since China didn't have control over the station, they couldn't assure that this leviathan

would disintegrate exactly over Point Nemo.

In the end, the space station did fall into the Pacific Ocean, but it happened more than

2,200 miles away from the Point of Inaccessibility.

In any case, the station mostly burned up while entering the atmosphere and hit the

ocean as a shower of thousands of tiny pieces.

But as you remember, the crash-landing took place because there was no control of the

station.

Luckily, in most cases, aerospace engineers can direct spacecraft toward their landing

site.

That's why, since 1971, when Point Nemo was chosen for a spacecraft graveyard, space agencies

have already dumped more than 260 dead satellites into the ocean.

The largest spacecraft is Russia's MIR space lab, buried under 2 miles of water.

It's a massive 120-ton metal thing which hit the surface of the ocean in 2001.

Other spacecraft resting at the bottom of Point Nemo are 6 Russian Salyut space stations,

6 Japanese HTV cargo spacecraft, 5 European Space Agency cargo ships, and even a SpaceX

rocket.

And somewhere around 2024, the International Space Station is likely to end up in the "spacecraft

graveyard" as well.

But if you thought that the Point Nemo space cemetery looked organized and neat, you might

change your opinion after I tell you how things really are.

Dead spacecraft aren't tucked carefully together on the bottom.

Since even large spacecraft burn up as they enter the atmosphere, it's not a whole object

that touches the surface of the water.

Nope, a massive spacecraft usually breaks into an oval-shaped cloud of debris that can

extend to more than 1,000 miles long and almost a hundred miles wide.

Luckily, that's not a problem because the land-free area around Point Nemo occupies

more than 6 million square miles, and the chances that space debris causes harm to people

are meager.

So far, theres only been one case involving a woman who was lightly hit on the shoulder

by a piece of space debris.

But the potential risk of this debris injuring someone still exists, right?

Then why don't we just leave all the dead spacecraft alone in their orbits?

See for yourself: today, more than 4,000 spacecraft are circling Earth at different altitudes,

and even so, theres space for many more.

Pardon the pun.

But if all the space around our planet gets crowded with satellites, both functioning

and dead, people will face the serious problem of space junk.

Besides all the spacecraft, space would be swarming with artificial objects bigger than

your fist, along with countless bits of metal, bolts, screws, and flecks of paint.

The most dangerous thing might be one large piece of space debris hitting another.

Not that it happens often, but it does happen.

For instance, one satellite collision occurred in 1996, another in 2009, and two more in

2013.

After these accidents, clouds of space debris appeared that will pose a threat to other

satellites hundreds of years after the collisions!

That's the reason why space agencies take getting spacecraft out of their orbit so seriously.

In fact, most modern spacecraft have built-in systems that help to de-orbit them and land

in the designated area.

But what about those poor old things out there in space which have been orbiting the planet

for decades?

Uncontrolled, they pose a big threat to the safety of the planet.

But don't worry, scientists are working on the solution to this problem.

Hopefully, therell soon be new technologies thatll let us remove these old spacecraft

from their orbit by lassoing and tugging them away.

And now, how about some baffling facts about one of the most unusual places on Earth, Point

Nemo?

The most hilarious thing about the Point of Inaccessibility is that the man who discovered

it has never been there!

It was 1992 when Hrvoje Lukatela, a Croatian survey engineer, used a computer program that

figured out which spot was the farthest distance from all other land coordinates.

And by the way, if you thought that Point Nemo was named after a fish, think again.

The truth is that "Nemo" means "no man" in Latin, which is suitable for the place we're

talking about, right?

It turned out that the spot was located almost in the heart of the South Pacific Gyre - a

monster-sized rotating current.

This current, which prevents nutrient-rich water from entering the area, is to blame

for the near-absence of life in Point Nemo.

And as you know, no food - no life (well, at least other than tiny crabs living near

the volcanic vents and ever-present bacteria).

It makes the Point of Inaccessibility the most lifeless place in the ocean.

Alright, heres your chance.

Would you like to visit Point Nemo and see the spacecraft cemetery?

Let me know down in the comments!

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The Description of The World's Only Spacecraft Graveyard!