An Object That Fell From the Sky Made a Hole in a House With Someone Inside. The Family Is Suing NASA

The lawsuit will set a precedent for future cases given that Earth’s orbit is littered with space junk.

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We’ve been saying it for a long time: Space junk is a problem that, far from going away, is getting bigger and bigger. In fact, there are already companies dedicated to removing debris from space. Several places on our planet have been hit by debris falling from the sky in just a few months. Now, one family has taken a significant step by filing the first lawsuit against NASA for dumping space junk on their property.

An unusual case. A family from Florida has filed a lawsuit against the world’s most renowned space agency, seeking financial compensation for the stress caused when a piece of space junk fell from the sky and crashed through the roof of their home. Although there were no injuries, the family’s attorney believes the case has far-reaching implications and could set a precedent for future litigation.

With this historic lawsuit, the family seeks compensation for property damage, emotional and mental anguish, as well as third-party assistance costs. According to AFP, they’re asking for more than $80,000 in damages.

Space junk

The culprit: an ISS battery. The events date back to April, when a cylindrical-shaped object crashed through the roof of a family home in Naples, Florida, creating a hole in the ceiling and floor. The incident took place at the same time as the re-entry of a huge platform of old International Space Station (ISS) batteries, which plummeted through the atmosphere over the Gulf of Mexico and eventually headed toward southwest Florida.

The family reported the incident, and NASA collected the object to study its dimensions and characteristics. It was eventually determined that the fragment was part of the flight support equipment used to mount the batteries on the cargo pallet.

Space junk The remains of the piece that fell on the Florida home analyzed by NASA.

Heaviest piece. Following NASA’s investigation, it was learned that the cargo pallet contained nine batteries and weighed approximately 5,732 pounds, making it the heaviest piece of debris dropped from the ISS. The piece had blasted off from the Canadarm2 robotic arm in 2021 and began its route to Earth in an uncontrolled re-entry, although it was supposed to degrade harmlessly upon re-entry.

The chaotic descent from orbit finally ended when the cargo pallet re-entered over the Gulf of Mexico on March 8.

Official statement from the Florida family. Mica Nguyen Worthy, the attorney handling the case, shed more light on the incident in a statement: “My clients are seeking adequate compensation to account for the stress and impact that this event had on their lives. They are grateful that no one sustained physical injuries from this incident, but a ‘near miss’ situation such as this could have been catastrophic.”

Space junk

The family attorney adds that “if the debris had hit a few feet in another direction, there could have been serious injury or a fatality.” For all these reasons, Worthy believes that the case may set a milestone and precedent for the future: “Here, the U.S. government, through NASA, has an opportunity to set the standard or ‘set a precedent’ as to what responsible, safe, and sustainable space operations ought to look like.”

The issue of space junk. Just a month ago, a Canadian farming family discovered carbon fiber debris on their land, which turned out to be part of a spacecraft. Similarly, in North Carolina, an object was found in a field that was later identified as remnants of a SpaceX spacecraft. These incidents highlight the growing problem of space junk caused by the increasing number of space launches and activities.

A study published in 2022 revealed the severity of the space junk issue, indicating a 10% chance of someone on Earth being killed by falling debris in the next decade. In any case, the Florida family’s lawsuit against NASA might finally set legal frameworks for dealing with these types of situations.

Image | NASA APPEL | NASA Johnson

Related | Japan Is at the Forefront of Efforts to Clean Up Space Trash. It Just Deployed a ‘Space Garbage Truck’ Next to an Old Rocket

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