International Space Station Junk Slams Into Florida Home

By Charlene Badasie | Published

international space station

Debris from the International Space Station has destroyed a home in the quiet neighborhood of Naples, Florida. According to the owner, Alejandro Otero, the massive object ripped through the roof and both floors of his two-story house. A home security camera captured the sound of the crash at 2:34 pm local time (19:34 UTC) on March 8.

The Timing Points To ISS

The timing coincides closely with the reentry of junk from the International Space Station, which was recorded by the US Space Command at 2:29 pm EST (19:29 UTC). The object was traveling over the Gulf of Mexico, heading towards southwest Florida. The debris included depleted batteries, attached to a cargo pallet that was initially intended for a controlled return to Earth.

However, due to a series of delays, the cargo pallet missed its scheduled return, prompting NASA to release the batteries from the space station in 2021 for an unguided reentry. The space agency has recovered the debris from Otero, and engineers at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center will analyze the object to determine its source.

It Used To Be A Lot Bigger

international space station

Most of the material from the batteries and cargo carrier likely disintegrated as they travelled through the atmosphere. The intense heat would have vaporized most of the object before it could reach the Earth’s surface. NASA reported that the entire pallet, which contained nine used batteries from the International Space Station’s power system, weighed over 2.6 metric tons (5,800 pounds).

Dimensionally, it was approximately double the height of a standard kitchen refrigerator. Objects of similar mass or greater regularly reenter Earth’s atmosphere on controlled paths, typically comprising failed satellites or spent rocket stages left in orbit after completing their missions. Otero has been using social media platform X to contact the responsible agencies.

NASA Didn’t Expect Anything To Survive Re-Entry

international space station NASA

During the March 8 reentry, a NASA spokesperson at the Johnson Space Center in Houston stated that the agency “conducted a thorough debris analysis assessment on the pallet and has determined it will harmlessly reenter the Earth’s atmosphere.” This marked the largest object ever discarded from the International Space Station.

 “We do not expect any portion to have survived reentry,” NASA emphasized. However, insights from other space experts contradicted that assertion. The Aerospace Corporation, a federally funded research and development center, indicated that a “general rule of thumb” suggests that 20 to 40 percent of the mass of a large object might make it to the ground.

Europe Had A Different Idea

international space station (1)

The specific percentage varies based on the object’s design, but given that these nickel-hydrogen batteries consist of metals with relatively high density, their survival rate may be higher. Before the reentry, the European Space Agency also acknowledged the possibility that some fragments from the battery pallet might survive the descent to Earth from the International Space Station.

Otero Could Sue… But Who?

According to Michelle Hanlon, executive director of the Center for Air and Space Law at the University of Mississippi, Otero could file a claim against the federal government under the Federal Tort Claims Act. However, this case is a little more complicated since the batteries were owned by NASA but affixed to a pallet structure launched by Japan’s space agency.

Fortunately for Otero, Japan would be fully liable for the damages resulting from the falling International Space Station junk.

Source: WINK News

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