Dumping Spacecraft In The Middle Of Nowhere

The BBC has an interesting article on Point Nemo, AKA the Oceanic Pole of Inaccessibility, AKA the spacecraft graveyard. This is the place in the ocean that is furthest from land, in the middle of the usually stormy South Pacific. It’s as far out there as you can get without leaving the planet: about 2,688 kilometers (1670 miles) from the nearest dry land. Even the ocean floor is 4 km (2.5 miles) down; the closest human life is the International Space Station (ISS) astronauts flying 415 km (260 miles) above it. It is not near any shipping lanes or transport routes. It is, to put it bluntly, the middle of goddam nowhere. So, it is a perfect place to dump derelict spacecraft.

Since 1971, over 160 spacecraft have met their end in these chilly waters, from the fiery public end of the Mir space station to the secret death of numerous secret spy satellites. The article in question focuses on the Soviet satellites, but plenty of other countries dump their end-of-life satellites there, including trash from the ISS. The Chinese Taingong-1 space station crashed nearby, although that was more by accident than design. The ISS is scheduled to join its trash in a few years: the current plan is that the massive space station will be de-orbited and crashed near Point Nemo in 2030.

Will there be anyone to see it? When the Mir space station was de-orbited, some entrepreneurial companies offered flights to the area to catch a glimpse, but the best view was from the island of Fiji. So, start planning your trip now…

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Where Old Files Go To Die

We all lead digital lives, and we work in and on files of one sort or another. And sometimes we get attached to them. That long manifesto you poured your heart into, but nonetheless probably shouldn’t see the light of day? Love letters from former flames? Your first favorite video game that you can’t play any more, but it just sits there eating up drive space?

These are the files that are important enough that they deserve better than just a drag-and-drop into the trashcan. They deserve to be buried with dignity, and that’s just what [Ulf Schleth]’s /death/null offers us – a digital graveyard where our files no longer exist as they were, but still are allowed to linger in memory.

This is an old project, but one that tickled our funny  and poignant bones in equal parts. The pun on /dev/null probably works just a little better if you read both filepaths with a German accent in your head, but the idea translates anyway.

To use it, you simply upload your file and it gets sent to the great trashcan in the sky, but along the way a 4 x 5 matrix of colored blocks is created that represents the file, and it is registered forever in the graveyard, where you can check up on it any time you like. Of course you can’t read it – only 20 RGB triples remain – but you have the digital “gravestone” as commemoration.

Even if you don’t have any loved ones in [Ulf]’s graveyard, you can walk by and see which files others have chosen to remember. Swing on by and pay your respects to notepad.exe.