NASA confirms object that crashed into Florida home is space station debris

On March 8, an object from the sky crashed into a family’s home in the coastal city of Naples, Florida (USA). Owner Alejandro Otero published an article in social network that an object weighing about a kilogram and the size of a palm crossed the ceiling and two floors and was going to injure his son, who was alone at home in the next room. Shortly after the incident, Otero wrote a new tweet in which he stated that the object was part of a charging platform full of old batteries thrown out of the International Space Station (ISS) in March 2021. He was right.

Analysis of the object by NASA at the Kennedy Space Center confirms the item’s origin. In March 2021, NASA ground controllers used the ISS’s robotic arm to clear a cargo pad containing old nickel-hydride batteries from the station following the delivery and installation of new lithium-ion batteries as part of a power upgrade at the orbital outpost. The total mass of equipment dropped from the space station was about 2630 kilograms. The equipment was expected to burn up completely during re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere on March 8. However, one part survived re-entry and struck a house in Naples.

NASA technicians completed an assessment of the size and characteristics of the object compared to the launched equipment, and also analyzed the materials. Based on its examination, the agency determined that the debris was a NASA flight support equipment rack that was used to install batteries on a charging pad. The object is made of the metal alloy Inconel, weighs just under a kilogram, has a height of 10 cm and a diameter of 4 cm.

wounded woman

NASA scientists use engineering models to estimate how objects heat up and break apart as they enter the atmosphere. These models require detailed input parameters and are periodically updated when debris is found to have survived re-entry and impacted terrain. The space station will conduct a detailed investigation to determine why the debris survived and update models and analyzes as necessary.

NASA said in a release that it remains committed to operating responsibly in low Earth orbit and reducing risk as much as possible to protect people on Earth when space equipment needs to be released.

About 5,400 objects with a diameter of one meter are moving uncontrollably in space, 34,000 are more than 10 centimeters long, 900,000 are more than one centimeter in length and more than 130 million are more than one millimeter in length. Among these small parts are propellers that can reach speeds of 28,000 kilometers per hour and pierce the satellite like butter.

Although it may seem like a threat, space debris is unlikely to cause harm to anyone or property. The only known person in the world to have been the victim of something like this is Lottie Williams of Tulsa, Oklahoma (USA), who was hit by a small piece of space debris in 1996 but was not seriously injured.

Yes, fears caused by meteorites are somewhat more common. Harvard University’s International Comet Quarterly compiled a list of these strikes, which punctured the roofs of vehicles and houses, even injuring some passengers. Collect dead cattle and horses, but not people. Among the most recent cases is a 6-inch metal meteorite that crashed through the roof of a house in May 2023 in New Jersey (USA). In February of the same year, another meteorite fell on a balcony near Matera in Italy.

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