Florida family sues NASA over space station debris damage

A Florida family is suing NASA after debris from the International Space Station damaged their home.

The law firm Cranfill Sumner, representing the family, stated that this is the first case of its kind and could set a precedent for future claims as space debris becomes an increasingly significant issue.

In March, debris struck Alejandro Otero’s home, creating a hole in the roof and floor. Alejandro’s son, Daniel, was home at the time but was unharmed.

The family is seeking $80,000 in compensation for the stress and impact of the incident. Cranfill Sumner emphasized their clients’ gratitude that no one was physically injured, noting the potentially catastrophic consequences had the debris hit slightly differently.

NASA explained that the debris originated from a cargo pallet containing aging batteries released from the space station in March 2021. Ground controllers expected the hardware to burn up upon re-entry on March 8, 2024. However, a piece survived and impacted the Otero home in Naples, Florida. The object, weighing around 1.6 lbs (725g) and measuring 4 inches by 1.6 inches, came from a stanchion used to mount batteries on the pallet.

Mica Nguyen Worthy, the family’s lawyer, highlighted the growing issue of space debris due to increased space traffic. She argued that if NASA compensates the Oteros fully, it would signal to other governments and private industries the importance of compensating victims of space debris incidents regardless of fault.

Photo credit: NASA