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Family claims NASA’s space debris tore through home after plummeting from orbit

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NASA’s 5,800 pounds of space junk was scheduled to orbit Earth for several years before burning up harmlessly in the atmosphere.

However, things didn’t go as planned, and on March 8th, a Florida family received an unexpected delivery from the International Space Station.

The law firm representing the family said the 1.6-pound alloy object “left a sizable hole from the roof to the floor level” while the Otero’s son was inside the home.

No one was injured, but the family’s lawyer, Micah Nguyen Worthy, said “such a ‘near miss’ situation could have had tragic consequences.”

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NASA announced, “A strut was recovered from NASA’s Flight Support Facility used to load batteries for the International Space Station onto a cargo pallet. The strut survived re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere on March 8, 2024 and impacted a home in Naples, Florida.” (NASA)

The external pallet carrying old nickel-metal hydride batteries is "Harmlessly" According to NASA, it was supposed to burn up in Earth's atmosphere until 2021, but it didn't end up doing so.

According to NASA, the outer pallet filled with old nickel-metal hydride batteries was supposed to burn up “harmlessly” in Earth’s atmosphere, but it didn’t. (NASA)

The International Space Station (ISS) dropped “an external pallet of old nickel-metal hydride batteries” into orbit 260 miles above the Pacific Ocean, west of Central America, NASA announced on March 11, 2021.

The remains of a discarded battery pallet that powers the space station burned into an object measuring 4 inches tall and 1.6 inches in diameter, NASA announced in an April 15 press release.

The satellite was expected to orbit Earth for two to four years before “harmlessly” burning up in the atmosphere.

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International Space Station

A view of the International Space Station taken by the crew of the Russian Soyuz MS-19 spacecraft after undocking on March 30, 2022. (Roscosmos State Space Corporation, via The Associated Press, File)

Astronomer Jonathan McDowell posted on X about the space junk that entered Earth’s atmosphere on March 8, its predicted path, and the possibility of it hitting Fort Myers.

“Apparently one of these pieces missed Fort Myers and fell on our house in Naples,” Alejandro Otero wrote back, posting photos of the damage and objects. “It went through the roof and into the second floor. It nearly knocked my son over.”

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Otero’s post on X has since been deleted.

NASA did not respond to a request for comment from Fox News Digital, but Otero’s lawyer responded in an email.

Space asteroid

This illustration released by Johns Hopkins University APL and NASA shows NASA’s DART spacecraft (foreground right) and the Italian Space Agency’s LICIACube (bottom right) in the Didymos system before colliding with the asteroid Dimorphos (left). (Steve Gribben/Johns Hopkins University APL/NASA via The Associated Press)

She made it clear that no lawsuit has been filed yet and that she hopes the case does not escalate to that level.

“We have filed a claim with NASA on Mr. Oteros’ behalf, and if NASA is unable to resolve the claim to Mr. Oteros’ satisfaction, they will have the right to consider filing a lawsuit in federal court,” she said.

According to Worthy, this is an opportunity for NASA to “set a precedent for what responsible, safe and sustainable space operations should look like.”

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“Due to the recent increase in space traffic, space debris has become a real and serious problem,” the lawyers said.

“If this incident had occurred overseas and someone in another country had been harmed by space debris similar to that in Mr. Oteros’ case, the United States would have been absolutely liable to pay for those damages.”

She implored NASA and the U.S. government to follow the same legal principles.

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The debris that fell on Otero’s home was analyzed at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

According to NASA, its experts are using engineering models to estimate how the object “will heat up and break down upon re-entry into the atmosphere.”

These models are “periodicly updated” after any situation in which debris survives re-entry and crashes to the ground.

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“The International Space Station will conduct a detailed investigation of the jettison and re-entry to determine why the debris survived and will update our modeling and analysis as needed,” NASA said in a statement on April 15.

“NASA remains committed to responsible operations in low Earth orbit, and in the event we need to release a space instrument, we will mitigate risks as much as possible to protect people here on Earth.”

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