International Space Station's Final Resting Place: Point Nemo

NASA releases updated transition plan
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 1, 2022 1:56 PM CST
ISS Is Bound for the 'Spacecraft Cemetery' in 2031
The ISS is shown.   (Getty Images)

NASA on Tuesday provided an updated International Space Station transition plan—including what will happen when deorbit occurs in 2031. The report states that "based on the ISS structural health analysis performed to date, there is high confidence that ISS life can be further extended through 2030," the year President Biden committed to in December. Once that end date passes, a series of ISS maneuvers will occur to lower its altitude from a current altitude of 253 miles.

"Eventually, after performing maneuvers to line up the final target ground track and debris footprint over the South Pacific Oceanic Uninhabited Area (SPOUA), the area around Point Nemo, ISS operators will perform the ISS re-entry burn, providing the final push to lower ISS as much as possible and ensure safe atmospheric entry." Sky News reports Point Nemo has a nickname: "spacecraft cemetery." It's called that because it's the point on the planet that's farthest from land, and it's where NASA tries to direct decommissioned spacecraft upon their return to Earth rather than have them junk up space and imperil future launches.

NOAA offers up a map and says that Point Nemo is about 1,450 nautical miles from land, with the closest terra firma being "Ducie Island, part of the Pitcairn Islands, to the north; Motu Nui, one of the Easter Islands, to the northeast; and Maher Island, part of Antarctica, to the south." Futurism in 2019 took a look at the spacecraft cemetery, which it reports is home to about 300 "discarded carcasses" that have been directed toward it since 1971. (Read more International Space Station stories.)

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