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This Is Where Spacecrafts Go When They Die

The human race has been sending satellites and spacecraft up into space for many years now. Do you ever think about what happens to some of that stuff when it stops working or just straight up dies? There are surprisingly a few different options for retired space junk.

The space around Earth is definitely getting crowded. This artist interpretation of just how many satellites and spacecraft we have orbiting our planet looks staggering but remember there is a lot of 'space' in space. The outer most dots in this image depict the 'graveyard orbit'. If a spacecraft is too big to burn up in our atmosphere and already too far away, engineers will use up its remaining fuel to send it into this orbit away from working satellites and spacecraft.

That orbit is 200 miles farther than the farthest active satellites which puts it 22,400 miles above the Earth. If the spacecraft is small enough and close enough, engineers will use up the fuel to make it do a controlled dive into our atmosphere and burn up into nothing. 

But, if the spacecraft is too big to burn up in the atmosphere and too close to be sent away to that far away orbit, it is then sent to the very real 'spacecraft graveyard' right here on Earth. Fortunately, it isn't close to you, or anyone for that matter.

The spacecraft cemetery is located around 2,400 miles off the coast of New Zealand. It is an area in the Pacific Ocean that is the farthest from land or any human population. Engineers burn the fuel of the spacecraft and make sure it touches down in this remote part of the ocean. 

The MIR Space Station and over 260 spacecraft have landed here for their final resting place since 1971. It is a veritable museum of old and broken space junk on the bottom of the ocean but with no real way of accessing it those spacecraft are most likely never to be seen again. Not only is this one of the most remote areas on the planet, it is also a very turbulent part of the Pacific Ocean.

One final thought: if you are interested in more about the spacecraft cemetery and what is happening above our heads you can find a lot more information on these websites: NASA, SpaceX, and JPL.

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