Few people have ever seen the loneliest place on our planet, Point Nemo.
Nope, it’s 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
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
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
That's when the Point of Inaccessibility comes into play.
Aerospace engineers appreciate that they "can put things down" in Point Nemo without hitting
On the other hand, "burying" a defunct satellite in the spacecraft cemetery requires some outstanding
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
Luckily, in most cases, aerospace engineers can direct spacecraft toward their landing
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
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
So far, there’s 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, there’s 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
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
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, there’ll soon be new technologies that’ll 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
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, here’s 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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