Space Station Tiangong-1 Finally Crash Landed Near the South Pacific 'Spacecraft Graveyard'

Monday, 02 April 2018 - 6:37PM
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Monday, 02 April 2018 - 6:37PM
Space Station Tiangong-1 Finally Crash Landed Near the South Pacific 'Spacecraft Graveyard'
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CNSA
After weeks of speculation, Tiangong-1 - the falling space station which could crash nearly anywhere in the world - made its landing during late night on April 1, 2018.

Just like most experts predicted, it caused absolutely zero damage to anything but itself, as the remainder of Tiangong-1 that didn't burn up in the atmosphere finally splashed down into the South Pacific this weekend, harmless sinking into the ocean. But there's an interesting coincidence regarding precisely where in the Pacific Ocean it crashed.

Because Tiangong-1's watery grave, near the coast of American Samoa, is actually just thousands of miles northwest of a spot called Point Nemo, also known as the "spacecraft graveyard" and the most remote spot in the world. It's the official "oceanic pole of accessibility", the point that's farther away from land than any other point on Earth. Specifically 1,500 miles (2,415 kilometers) away from the nearest chunk of land.




In the waters of Point Nemo lie about 250 to 300 different satellites and spacecraft, as its remoteness makes it an ideal spot for space agencies to dump decommissioned spacecraft during controlled re-entries. These tend to be supply vessels to the International Space Station, but other big objects like the Russian Mir space lab have been dumped here as well. When/if the International Space Station is finally closed, it'll likely be dropped here too.

Of course, what makes Tiangong-1 different from the other spacecraft resting here is that it's re-entry into Earth's atmosphere wasn't controlled at all. It fell out of orbit due to a malfunction, and nobody had any control over where it was supposed to land, hence the storm of excitement as everyone watched where it was heading, a very difficult task to attempt



In the end, it was rather a coincidence that it happened to land where it was supposed to land originally, even if it missed the mark slightly. You could frame it as something like "it knew where to land," but it's a hunk of metal that halfway burned up as it fell through the atmosphere, so that's not really the case. 

But in the end, Point Nemo - the spacecraft graveyard and H.P. Lovecraft's choice for the fictional sunken city of R'lyeh where Cthulhu lives - has sort of claimed another victim.
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