Space object fallen on a house: money demanded from NASA

Space object fallen on a house: money demanded from NASA
Space object fallen on a house: money demanded from NASA

An American family is demanding more than $80,000 from NASA for damage caused by a space object that pierced the roof of their house a few months ago, a lawyer announced on Friday.

The problem of space debris is growing as the space industry grows, and how NASA responds to this request will set an important precedent, said a statement from the law firm representing the family. This decision will form “the foundations on which the legal landscape will be built in this area”, he observed.

On March 8, 2024, an object weighing approximately 700 grams struck the house of a resident of a city in Florida, Alejandro Otero, making a hole in the roof and in a floor. After analysis, NASA confirmed that the object came from a shipment of old batteries aboard the International Space Station (ISS), waste released in 2021 and which the American space agency had assured would return to the Earth “safe”. But instead of disintegrating as expected, a piece “survived” upon re-entry into the atmosphere, according to the space agency.

Alejandro Otero himself was not in the house at the time of the impact, unlike his son. “My clients are seeking adequate compensation to take into account the stress and consequences this event has had on their lives,” said attorney Mica Nguyen Worthy. “They are happy that no one was injured, but … if the debris had fallen a few meters in another direction, there could have been serious injuries or a death.”

The money must also be used to cover, among other things, material damage that is not insured, the press release specifies. The request was made as part of a text allowing an appeal to be filed with the government in the event of negligence. If the problem is not resolved this way, then legal action will be possible.

The lawyer argues that if the object had fallen on a house abroad, “the United States would have been absolutely obligated to pay for these damages” under an international treaty. “We ask NASA not to apply a different rule for American citizens or residents.” Especially since “space debris constitutes a real and serious problem due to the increase in space traffic in recent years,” she stressed. NASA, which did not immediately respond to a request from AFP, has six months to respond to the request, according to the lawyer.

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