The Chinese space station known as Tiangong-1 has finally fallen to Earth, and it just missed a spot in the Pacific Ocean that would have been its perfect resting place.
The Tiangong-1, fortunately, did not deal any damage upon its reentry, with the location of its crash unknown until the last minute because it was out of control.
Tiangong-1 Just Misses Point Nemo
Tiangong-1 finally fell to Earth but sort of did not. The Chinese space station burned up during reentry into the Earth's atmosphere, over the central south Pacific Ocean near Tahiti. Any debris that survived the reentry are now likely sinking to the ocean floor.
Astronomer Jonathan McDowell, meanwhile, pointed out through a tweet that the Chinese space station just missed Point Nemo, which is a place in the Pacific Ocean known as the "spacecraft graveyard." The crash site of Tiangong-1 was near Point Nemo out of luck, as nobody had control over the space station during its descent to Earth.
Point Nemo is officially called an "oceanic pole of inaccessibility," because it is farther away from land than any other point on the world. This makes the location an ideal spot for spacecraft and satellites with controlled reentries into the Earth. With no people around and with the area being nondiverse biologically, space agencies have used Point Nemo as a dumping ground for spacecraft that will no longer fly again.
About 250 to 300 spacecraft, most of which burned up during reentry, have made Point Nemo as their final resting place. The largest object that ever splashed down at the spacecraft graveyard was the MIR space laboratory of Russia, which weighed 120 tons. The 420-ton International Space Station will take that title in 2024, it if proceeds with its planned shutdown in six years.
For H.P. Lovecraft fans, Point Nemo is also the location of R'lyeh, the fictional sunken city in the novel The Call of Cthulhu. If Cthulhu needed only one more satellite drop to awaken, then we should be happy that Tiangong-1 missed its mark.
Tiangong-1 Returns To Earth Safely
The world held its breath with the expected reentry of Tiangong-1, as nobody knew when and where it will crash on Earth. There were also concerns that radioactive debris from the Chinese space station will hit populated areas.
Scientists were able to narrow down the time of Tiangong-1's arrival to Easter Sunday, but up until the last minute, it was difficult to pinpoint its crash location because it was tumbling. Thankfully, the Chinese space station did not cause any damage.