April 16, 2024


Nasa is investigating after a large piece of metal believed to be part of a discarded battery pallet from the International Space Station crashed through the roof and two stories of a Florida home.

Engineers for the US space exploration agency are analyzing the cylindrical plate, which weighs about 2 pounds and tore through the home in Naples on the afternoon of March 8.

“It was a tremendous sound. It almost hit my son. He was two rooms over and heard everything,” the homeowner, Alejandro Otero, told WINK News. “Something ripped through the house and then made a big hole on the floor and on the ceiling.”

Otero said he was away on vacation when the object hit.

The scientific journal Ars Technica said the most likely explanation is that the piece came from the space station (ISS). It noted that the U.S. Space Command recorded the reentry of a piece of space debris over the Gulf of Mexico on a path toward southwest Florida at 2:29 p.m. that day, just five minutes before Otero’s Nest home security camera recorded the sound of the crash.

“It used to have a cylindrical shape, and you can tell by the shape of the top that it traveled through the atmosphere in this direction,” Otero said.

A Nasa Spokesman Josh Finch told Ars Technica that the analysis “is taking place as soon as possible to determine its origin,” although some space experts believe they already know the answer.

A 2.9-tonne pallet used for a battery upgrade on the ISS was jettisoned in March 2021, the largest object in terms of mass ever ejected from the orbiting outpost, Nasa said at the time.

It was scheduled to be a “uncontrolled re-entry” sometime between March 7 and 9, along with Harvard-Smithsonian astronomer Jonathan McDowell post to X that “it will not burn up completely on re-entry”.

“About half a ton of fragments are likely to hit the Earth’s surface,” McDowell wrote.

Otero responded to McDowell’s tweet with photos of the damage and said he left messages with Nasa that were not returned. Now he wants to know who will pay for the damage to his house.

Ars Technica said this could be a complicated issue to resolve because the exact origin of the piece has not yet been determined. The batteries are said to be owned by Nasa but attached to a pallet structure launched by the Japanese space agency Jaxa.

The European Space Agency (ESA) monitored the palette during its descent – and calculates that “while some parts may reach the ground, the accident risk, the probability of a person being hit, is very low”.

Uncontrolled re-enlistments are not uncommon, Esa added. “A large space object re-enters the atmosphere in a natural way about once a week, with the majority of the associated fragments burning up before reaching the ground,” it said.

“Most spacecraft, launch vehicles and operational hardware are designed to limit the risks associated with a re-entry.”





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