After making the rounds in space, all forms of spacecraft are eventually relieved of their duties. But what do you do with an unused satellite or an out-of-work space station? In many cases, space programs opt to crash this equipment into the South Pacific Ocean, thousands of miles from any stretch of land.
The South Pacific Ocean Uninhabited Area, known more informally as the Spacecraft Cemetery, is the most popular place on earth to direct unmanned space debris. Over 160 spacecraft, including satellites, supply vehicles, waste freighters and Russia’s Mir space station, have landed in this location 2,500 miles from New Zealand.
While the idea of diving into the depths of the ocean to see this collection might seem thrilling, would-be divers wouldn’t actually see much. The spacecrafts burn up during reentry, so what finally finds its way under the sea is usually large scraps of burned metal. For example, the Mir space station originally weighed 143 tons, yet only 20 tons landed in the ocean.