Florida resident describes moment 'space debris' ripped through his home: 'It almost hit my son' - Hindustan Times
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Florida resident describes moment 'space debris' ripped through his home: 'It almost hit my son'

BySumanti Sen
Apr 03, 2024 01:16 PM IST

A chunk of metal believed to be part of a discarded battery pallet from the International Space Station crashed into a Florida house

Residents of a Florida house were in for a shock when a chunk of metal believed to be part of a discarded battery pallet from the International Space Station crashed into it. The object crashed through the roof and two stories of the house. NASA is now investigating the incident.

A Florida resident described the moment a 'space debris' ripped through his home (@Alejandro0tero/X)
A Florida resident described the moment a 'space debris' ripped through his home (@Alejandro0tero/X)

The cylindrical slab reportedly weighs about 2lb. It is now being analysed by engineers for the American outer space exploration agency. It struck the home in Naples on March 8, in the afternoon.

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‘Something ripped through the house’

“It was a tremendous sound. It almost hit my son. He was two rooms over and heard it all,” 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 was not at home when the incident took place, and was away on vacation.

According to the scientific journal Ars Technica, the object was most possibly from the space station (ISS). The re-entry of a piece of space debris over the Gulf of Mexico was recorded by the US space command just five minutes before the object hit Otero’s home.

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

Josh Finch, a NASA spokesperson, told Ars Technica that an analysis of the object will take place “as soon as possible to determine its origin.” However, some space experts think they know the answer already.

In March 2021, a 2.9-tonne pallet used for a battery upgrade on the ISS was jettisoned. At the time, NASA said that it was the largest object, considering the mass, ever ejected from the orbiting outpost.

Sometime between March 7 and 9, 2024, it was scheduled to make an “uncontrolled re-entry.” Harvard-Smithsonian astronomer Jonathan McDowell posted on X, “Reentry of the EP-9 battery pallet jettisoned from ISS in 2021 is currently predicted (by Space Force) between 1230 UTC Mar 8 and 0830 UTC Mar 9. It will not totally burn up on reentry - about half a tonne of fragments will likely hit the Earth's surface.”

Otero responded to the post with pictures of the damage. He wrote on X, “Hello. Looks like one of those pieces missed Ft Myers and landed in my house in Naples. Tore through the roof and went thru 2 floors. Almost his my son. Can you please assist with getting NASA to connect with me? I’ve left messages and emails without a response.”

According to Ars Technica, this issue will not be easy to resolve as the origin of the chunk remains unclear. It said that although NASA owned the batteries, they were attached to a pallet structure launched by Jaxa, the Japanese space agency.

The European Space Agency (ESA), which monitored the pallet when it descended, said that “while some parts may reach the ground, the casualty risk, the likelihood of a person being hit, is very low”.

Esa said that uncontrolled re-entries are not rare. “A large space object re-enters the atmosphere in a natural way approximately once per 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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