Spacecraft cemetery: what is it and where?
The most distant from the land point on earth has many names, but most often it is called a point of Nemo, or the oceanic pole of inaccessibility. It is located at the coordinates 48 ° 52 6 'South and 123 ° 23, 6' west longitude. The closest land is an island about 2,250 kilometers away. Due to its remote location, this place is ideal for the disposal of spacecraft and space agencies so often call it even "spacecraft cemetery".
"This place is located in the Pacific Ocean and is the most remote from any point of human civilization on our planet," - describes the point of Nemo space agency NASA.
But Bill Aylora, aerospace engineer and an expert on the return of spacecraft into the atmosphere, it is about this place another definition:
"This is the best place on the planet for something to drop from space without bringing at the same time a third-party damage."
In order to "bury" another spacecraft in this cemetery, space agencies may take some time for the necessary calculations. They tend to be more compact satellites do not end their lives is at Nemo, since, NASA explains, "The heat generated by atmospheric friction, largely destroys falling at a rate of several thousand kilometers per hour satellite before it falls. TA-dah! It's like magic. And if there was no satellite! ".
It is quite another - larger objects such as Tiangong-1, China's first orbiting space station, launched in September 2011, the weight of which is about 8, 5 tons. China lost control of the 12-meter orbital laboratory in March 2016. Forecasts are disappointing. The station should fall to Earth sometime in early 2018. Where exactly? So far, no one knows. The same Aylor working on, say, a non-profit organization Aerospace Corporation that his company is not likely to be solved to make predictions earlier than five days before the station is expected collapse in the Earth's atmosphere. When this happens, hundreds of kilograms of various metal parts such as titanium plating stations, fuel tanks, and much more will continue to fall at a speed of over 300 kilometers per hour, until eventually not fall on the surface of the planet. Since China has lost control of the station, Tiangong-1, the country can not confidently predict whether it will fall to the point of Nemo.
The dump spacecraft
What is interesting, the astronauts living aboard the International Space Station, in fact is the closest to this very point Nemo. The thing is that the ISS is circling above the earth (and in particular over the place, we are talking about), at an altitude of about 400 kilometers, while the nearest point of Nemo piece of land is located much further.
According to Popular Science, from 1971 to mid-2016 space agencies from around the world are buried at least 260 spacecraft. At the same time, as the portal Gizmodo notes, the amount of recycled spacecraft has increased dramatically since 2015, when the total number was at the time of 161.
Here, at a depth of more than three kilometers, I found its final resting Soviet space station "Mir", more than 140 Russian cargo spacecraft, several truckloads of the European Space Agency (such as the first automatic cargo ship "Jules Verne" ATV series) and even one of the rockets SpaceX, if you believe the reports Smithsonian.com. However, the spacecraft is hardly folded neatly in a pile. Aylor notes that large objects such as 1-Tangun station may fall at break into pieces, covering an area of 1600 km and several tens along transversely. The very same territory "alienation" Nemo point covers an area of more than 17 million square kilometers, so finding a particular spacecraft crashed here it is not so simple as it might seem at first glance.
The cargo ship "Jules Verne" European Space Agency is falling apart during re-entry. September 29, 2008
Of course, not all space vehicles end their lives in the cemetery of space technology, but the chances that often destroy the spacecraft will fall on someone of the people, regardless of where the spacecraft will fall back to Earth, very small, Aylor notes.
"Of course, nothing is impossible. However, since the beginning of the space era, the last case that comes to mind, it took place already in 1997. Then a woman in Oklahoma fell unburned part of the rocket, "- explains Aylor.
The same piece of unburned rocket and a woman, to which he fell
Much more dangerous dead spacecraft can create it in orbit.
The real threat of space debris
At the moment, at various heights around the Earth circling around 4000 artificial satellites. And you should see even more in the near future. Elon Musk and his company SpaceX promise to launch its own Internet network, which will provide 4425 new satellites. In other words, in orbit and is now full of different spacecraft, and soon all will not be overcrowded.
According to statistics Space-Track.org site, in addition to satellites in orbit are thousands of remains uncontrolled missiles, as well as over 12,000 other man-made objects larger than a man's fist. And it is still lower if a countless number of different screws, bolts, lumps of dried paint (with plating missiles) and a plurality of metal particles.
"Over time, countries have begun to realize that literally litter the cosmos, and this poses a serious threat not only to their systems, but in general for all", - adds Aylor.
The worst, according to experts of the European Space Agency, can occur when two pieces of debris collide with each other, especially when these objects are large.
Random encounter the same satellites, though are very rare, but occur. The last such incident was in 1996, 2009 and two in 2013. As a result of such events, as well as a result of intentional destruction of satellites there is a huge number of space debris poses a threat to other workers satellites and the danger of a chain effect.
"We found that this debris can remain in orbit for hundreds of years," - commented Aylor.
In order to prevent the emergence of new space debris aging spacecraft need to eventually be de-orbited. Many space agencies as well as private space companies are now considering the possibility of creating a special spacecraft-scavenger, which could make obsolete their capture of satellites and other spacecraft and send them directly to an underwater graveyard of spaceships on Earth.
However, the same Aylor, as well as some other experts insist on the development of new technologies and methods by which you can capture, drag and remove the old uncontrolled debris accumulated in orbit and represents a real threat.
"I suggested something like XPRIZE and Grand Challenge, where you could select the most appropriate concepts three spacecraft and provide grants for their development and subsequent use in the purification of the planet's orbit," - says Aylor.
Unfortunately, technical difficulties in the implementation of such plans are far from being on the first place among the problems, when there is such a thing as the bureaucracy.
"The technical difficulty here is not the most basic. The main problem here creates the idea of private property. For example, no other nation has no right to touch the same American satellites. Proizoydi is - and it can be calculated as an act of military aggression, "- explains Aylor.
According to Aylora, in the face of the world a common threat the nation should unite, because the only way you can effectively solve these problems.