After the Sputnik 1 was launched in 1975, thousands of humanmade equipment have been sent to the orbit of Earth. A return trip was not written for most of them. Abandoned rockets, broken satellites, and bits of mission-related waste materials are all floating around our planet at high speeds. Some of these objects will be flying faster than 27,000 kilometers/hour. The collision of these materials can result in more debris as the useless junk smack into each other.
This is a very serious problem for the world that is highly dependent on GPS signals and telecommunications. There have been more than one incidents in which satellites are getting destroyed by the fast-moving debris, and there is no doubt that more will meet their end.
Even though a perfect solution to this problem hasn’t been found yet, there are some ways in which the useless orbiting debris can be removed. For about half a century, the space agencies have been instructing decommissioned vessels and old satellites to crash into a very remote part of the South Pacific. This area is called the “spacecraft cemetery” and is the farthest point from the dry land without leaving the planet. “Point Nemo” is about 4,023 kilometers (2,500 miles) towards the east of New Zealand and the landmasses close to this area are the islands of Maher, Moto Nui, and Ducie. So when a spacecraft comes crashing down to this place, there is no chance of causing damage to people or even a passing boat.
The first decommissioned spacecraft to be sent down to this cemetery was in the year 1971. After that more than 260 spacecraft, satellites, etc. have been sent down to this area of which the majority belonged to Russia. The most prestigious of all these is the Mir, which is a precursor built by the Soviet that orbited the planet from 1968 to 2001. The Mir broke apart on the travel to the cemetery in the atmosphere. Most of its components burned up in the descent and 6 fragments that remained, scattered and crashed across the sea floor.
Getting a spacecraft to land in the area requires a lot of calculations and skills. The space agencies must be in contact until the end, in order to send the instructions to land. And even then you can’t promise the landing to occur in the specified position. In 1979, NASA’s Skylab crash-landed in the western part of Australia, despite all the calculations. And on April 1, of this year, the Tiangong-1 orbital lab of the Chinese crash-landed in the Pacific waters missing Point Nemo narrowly.