Where Spacecraft Go To Die: Here’s What You Need to Know

The technology used in the numerous spacecraft is of the most advanced that humanity has ever created, and we continue improving our space ships each year with new propulsion systems, guidance systems, and other crucial parts. But, what happens to a spacecraft when it can no longer function, or when it has ‘served its purpose’? Where do Spacecraft go to die?

What happens to satellites or space stations when their lifespan has reached its end?

Do we just leave them in orbit? Crash them on the moon? What happens to them?

The answer is; they go to die on Earth.

ISS, stars and the Earth. Shutterstock.
Shutterstock.

There’s already enough trash on the moon for us to crash more spacecraft and satellites into it. After all, the moon isn’t mankind’s garbage dump.

As we have explained in previous articles, there are 175,788 kilograms of Man-Made Objects (Trash) are Currently on the Moon.

That’s bad enough, isn’t it?

So, instead of leaving the spacecraft in space wondering on their own, and potentially crashing into other satellites or spacecraft, there’s a place on Earth dubbed the spacecraft cemetery.

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I mean, it is not the best idea to crash spacecraft into the Earth, but apparently, that’s the best thing we could come up with.

Where Spacecraft go to die

The Spacecraft Cemetary or the South Pacific Ocean Uninhabited Area is a region of sea, located in the southern Pacific Ocean.

More precisely, just southeast of New Zealand, its there where spacecraft that have reached the end of their usefulness are routinely de-orbited from space and destroyed eventually destroyed.

This is the Oceanic Pile of Inaccessibility. Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons.
This is the Oceanic Pole of Inaccessibility. Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Roughly center on the Point Nemo: the oceanic pole of inaccessibility, this region of the sea is the area located furthest away from any land, located around 2,400 kilometers between Easter Island, the Pitcairn Island and the continent of Antarctica.

The place where spacecraft go to die wasn’t chosen randomly, and scientists weren’t just spinning the globe and picking a spot where their finger landed.

They chose this spot because it is located so far away from land, it is remote as it can get, and the area is crossed by a very limited number of ships.

Between 1971 and 2016, more than 260 spacecraft were deorbited and ceased into this region in the Pacific Ocean.

One of the most notorious spacecraft to crash there is the Soviet Mir Space Station, as well as six Salyut stations.

In addition to that, numerous unmanned resupply spacecraft that sent cargo to the International Space Station like the Russian Progress cargo craft, the Japanese H-II Transfer Vehicle, and the European Space Agency’s Automated Transfer Vehicle where de-orbited and sent crashing towards ‘Point Nemo.’