As ships, stations, and other satellites come crashing down to Earth, many end up making planet-fall at the same spot in the Pacific Ocean east of New Zealand. For years these downed science vessels have simply sunk down to the bottom of the sea in a place now known as the Spacecraft Cemetery.
While a great deal of debris and smaller satellites burn up upon re-entry, larger items—including entire space stations—need to be disposed of in a way that keeps the hazardous materials out of public circulation. And what better place than the dark depths of the ocean? Among the craft that has been scuttled at the spot are unmanned satellites, waste freighters carrying astronaut poop, and, possibly most remarkably, the entire decommissioned Russian space station Mir.
Many have speculated that on the dark day the International Space Station must come down to Earth, it too will be deposited in the “graveyard.” The accumulated space junk may eventually grow abundant enough to create a sort of futuristic reef, or a preserved record of our orbital ambitions waiting to be rediscovered by the archaeologists of the future.