Geek Trivia

Decommissioned Satellites Are Crashed Into An Ocean Location Known As?

Alpha Zero
The Elephant's Graveyard
Blackbeard's Gulch
Point Nemo
The Word "Boycott" Entered The English Language By Way Of?

Answer: Point Nemo

Although we sometimes fire spacecraft off into the depths of space never to return, the majority of spacecraft, satellites, and other launched objects firmly obey the rule of “what goes up must come down”. When you’re talking about large objects hurtling down towards the Earth as a result of a degrading orbit, however, you need to be very sure that where they land isn’t in the middle of a populated area.

Space agencies around the world are very careful to guide their decommissioned satellites and spacecraft to a very specific area of the globe, not just far away from all human habitation, but from land itself. To that end, you need a pole of isolation—a spot on Earth that is geographically the most distant or inaccessible area of a region and far, far removed from everything. While there are many poles of isolation—the pole of isolation for North America, for example, is the U.S. state of South Dakota—oceanic poles of isolation are better suited for the role of space junk graveyards.

With that in mind, space agencies selected not just any pole of isolation, but the most remote oceanic pole of isolation on Earth: Point Nemo. Point Nemo, named for both the Latin word “nemo” (which means “none”) and the Captain Nemo of Jules Verne’s novels, is located in the South Pacific Ocean at 48°52.6′S 123°23.6′W, and is more than 1,400 nautical miles from the nearest landmass.

Not only is Point Nemo the best place on Earth to crash an old satellite without risk of smashing into a city, but even as far as oceans go, it is a great place to dump old space junk. Its location within the South Pacific Gyre blocks nutrients from reaching the area and, being so far from land, it gets little nutrient run-off from coastal waters, leaving it relatively lifeless.

Image courtesy of Timwi.