Family sues NASA after Florida home is hit by debris from space station

24 June 2024, 11:31 | Updated: 24 June 2024, 13:56

A family from Florida is suing NASA after their home was damaged by debris which fell to Earth from the International Space Station.

Law firm Cranfill Sumner, acting for the family, said the case against the agency is the first of its kind - and will "form the foundation" for similar claims in the future as space debris had become a "real and serious issue".

The object smashed into the home of Alejandro Otero in March, creating a hole in the roof and flooring.

Mr Otero's son, Daniel, was at home at the time but was not injured.

The family wants $80,000 (£63,000) in compensation "to account for the stress and impact that this event had on their lives", said the lawyers.

Cranfill Sumner said their clients were "grateful that no one sustained physical injuries" but added the "near-miss situation" could have been "catastrophic".

"If the debris had hit a few feet in another direction, there could have been serious injury or a fatality," the firm said.

NASA said the debris fell to earth after ground controllers used a robotic arm on the space station to release a cargo pallet containing "aging batteries" in March 2021.

"The hardware was expected to fully burn up during entry through Earth's atmosphere on 8 March 2024," it said.

"However, a piece of hardware survived re-entry and impacted a home in Naples, Florida."

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NASA said the object was from a "stanchion" used in the flight support equipment to mount the batteries on the pallet.

It weighed around 1.6lbs (725g) and measured 4ins by 1.6ins.

The Otero family's lawyer, Mica Nguyen Worthy, said: "Space debris is a real and serious issue because of the increase in space traffic in recent years.

"If NASA were to take the position that the Oteros' claims should be paid in full, it would send a strong signal to both other governments and private industries that such victims should be compensated regardless of fault."