NASA says object that hit Florida home is from International Space Station

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Monday, April 22, 2024

NASA confirmed on Monday an object that struck a Naples, Florida home last month had originated from the International Space Station (ISS). In particular, the item was identified as a "stanchion from the NASA flight support equipment used to mount the batteries on the cargo pallet."

Space junk (on right) that struck Otero's home in Naples.
Image: NASA.

A pallet containing old nickel–hydride batteries was released from the ISS on March 11, 2021 after new batteries were installed. The refuse orbited the Earth for about three years before it fell back to the Earth on March 8. NASA had expected the 5,800-lb cargo to fully disintegrate in the atmosphere, but a 1.6-lb fragment survived re-entry and touched down at 2:34 p.m. local time. The impact caused property damage but no injuries.

Homeowner Alejandro Otero was not home when the impact occurred, but the crash could be heard in a Nest camera video. According to Otero, the impact made a "tremendous sound" and that the object almost hit his son. After seeing a tweet from astronomer Jonathan McDowell that the pallet and its contents had re-entered Earth's atmosphere, Otero responded with his own tweet that the debris had penetrated two floors after striking his home. NASA collected the fragment from Otero before performing analysis on it at the Kennedy Space Center.

The agency said its specialists will work to determine how the debris survived.