The most remote place on earth is home to the graveyard of space

Greg Evans
Monday 23 October 2017 10:45
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Picture:(Google Maps/ Screenshot)

If you were Nasa where on the planet would you dump your dead or unwanted spacecraft? The most remote place on Earth, of course.

The place lies at 48 degrees 52.6 minutes south latitude and is known as 'Point Nemo' or the 'Oceanic Pole of Inaccessibility'.

Positioned somewhere between New Zealand and Chile, it is approximately 2,250 km from the nearest patch of land and is probably the last place that anyone would want to visit.

Therefore, it is a genius move from Nasa to leave all of their dead spacecraft there, as the likelihood of anyone snooping around and nicking bits and pieces is slim-to-none.

Nasa mostly use the location to "bury" larger objects, as smaller satellites generally disintegrate by the time they make it back to Earth.

This is where Point Nemo comes into play. Nasa explain:

What about bigger things like space stations and larger spacecraft in low orbit?

These objects might not entirely burn up before reaching the ground.

There is a solution—spacecraft operators can plan for the final destination of their old satellites to make sure that any debris falls into a remote area.

This place even has a nickname—the Spacecraft Cemetery! It’s in the Pacific Ocean and is pretty much the farthest place from any human civilisation you can find.

The spot has been used by space agencies (including Elon Musk's) all over the world since 1971, with 260 ex-spacecrafts now said to rest in the area.

That number has increased significantly since 2015, when the number stood at just 161.

Due to it's remoteness, the nearest set of humans are actually the astronauts on the International Space Station, which is around 360km from Point Nemo when it flies overhead.

If you were planning to make a trip to the region to see some former bits of space tech you might want to reconsider this unique bit of tourism.

Due to it stretching for about 17 million square km, finding anything is near impossible.

By this point you are probably wondering "why can't they just leave that stuff up there?" The answer is because it's quite dangerous.

Over 4,000 satellites currently orbit the Earth, creating a lot of space junk, ranging from rockets to nuts and bolts.

Although it is a rare occurrence, when these objects collide it can create space debris which can go on to collide with other satellites, creating a intergalactic domino effect.

Therefore decommissioning old satellites and returning them to Earth is imperative.

Aerospace engineer and atmospheric reentry specialist, Bill Ailor has a few theories on how to make this process easier but the politics of nations could get in the way.

He is quoted by Science Alert as saying:

I've proposed something like an XPRIZE or a Grand Challenge, where would you identify three spacecraft and give a prize to an entity to remove those things.

It's not just a technical issue. This idea of ownership gets to be a real player here.

No other nation has permission to touch a US satellite, for instance. And if we went after a satellite…it could even be deemed an act of war.

There needs to be something where nations and commercial [companies] have some authority to go after something.

That is a lot to consider and think about but for the normal person, the worry of getting hit by a piece of space debris is probably the biggest concern.

Fortunately, Ailor believes that it isn't something that we need to worry about.

It's not impossible, but since the beginning of the space age...a woman who was brushed on the shoulder in Oklahoma is the only one we're aware of who's been touched by a piece of space debris.

HT Science Alert

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