The Remotest Point on Planet Earth is a Spacecraft Graveyard

No one on the planet lives within 2,688 kilometres of Point Nemo, making it the remotest place on Earth.

That doesn’t mean no one lives closer to the Pacific Ocean location. Actually, astronauts on the International Space Station, orbiting 365 kilometres above Earth, often come closest to the spot. So it’s fitting that when those astronauts’ extraterrestrial home reaches retirement age in 2030, it will plummet into Point Nemo — Earth’s biggest spacecraft graveyard, according to CNN.

That’s right: when our various space gear reaches decommission age, we often sink it into the ocean.

It has happened 263 times since 1971 near Point Nemo, and the craft you can find there includes the famous Russian space station Mir.

Canadian-Russian engineer Hrvoje Lukatela first determined the spot’s coordinates in 1992. He named it after the mercurial submarine captain in Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. Its other names include the Oceanic Pole of Inaccessibility and the South Pacific Ocean Uninhabited Area.

The closest spits of land to Point Nemo are Ducie Island to the north, in the Pitcairn Islands; Motu Nui to the northeast, on Easter Island; and Maher Island, part of Antarctica, to the south.

Space ship wrecks, tiny plastic floaties

Even though it’s about as far from land as South America is from Africa, Point Nemo still bears traces of human contact — as big as space stations and as small as microplastics.

Most of humans’ cosmic waste presumably lies on the seafloor at Point Nemo. But smaller debris floats closer to the surface. Personnel at the Volvo Ocean Race found microplastics in the region when the yacht contest passed through in 2018.

Space junk falls to earth on a daily basis, but most of it burns up in the atmosphere. Space agencies need to find landings where bigger debris won’t put humans at risk.

“This is the largest ocean area without any islands. It is just the safest area where the long fallout zone of debris after a re-entry fits into,” Holger Krag, Head of the Space Safety Programme Office at the European Space Agency, told CNN.

Sam Anderson

Sam Anderson spent his 20s as an adventure rock climber, scampering throughout the western U.S., Mexico, and Thailand to scope out prime stone and great stories. Life on the road gradually transformed into a seat behind the keyboard, where he acted as a founding writer of the AllGear Digital Newsroom and earned 1,500+ bylines in four years on topics from pro rock climbing to slingshots and scientific breakthroughs.