NASA confirms its space trash pierced Florida man’s roof

On March 8, a piece of space debris plunged through a roof in Naples, FL, ripped through two floors and (fortunately) missed the son of homeowner Alejandro Otero. On Tuesday, NASA confirmed the results of its analysis of the incident. As suspected, it’s a piece of equipment dumped from the International Space Station (ISS) three years ago.

NASA’s investigation of the object at Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral confirmed it was a piece of the EP-9 support equipment used to mount batteries onto a cargo pallet, which the ISS’ robotic arm dropped on March 11, 2021. The haul, made up of discarded nickel-hydrogen batteries, was expected to orbit Earth between two to four years (it split the difference, lasting almost exactly three) “before burning up harmlessly in the atmosphere,” as NASA predicted at the time. Not quite.

The roof-piercing debris was described as a stanchion from NASA flight support equipment used to mount the batteries onto the cargo pallet. Made of the metal alloy Inconel, the object weighs 1.6 lbs and measures 4 inches tall and 1.6 inches in diameter.

Otero told Fort Meyers CBS affiliate WINK-TV that he was on vacation when his son told him that an object had pierced their roof. “I was shaking,” he said. “I was completely in disbelief. What are the chances of something landing on my house with such force to cause so much damage. I’m super grateful that nobody got hurt.”

NASA says it will investigate the equipment dump’s jettison and re-entry to try to figure out why the object slammed into Otero’s home instead of disintegrating into flames. “NASA specialists use engineering models to estimate how objects heat up and break apart during atmospheric re-entry,” the space agency explained in a news release. “These models require detailed input parameters and are regularly updated when debris is found to have survived atmospheric re-entry to the ground.”

Most space junk moves extremely fast, reaching up to 18,000 mph, according to NASA. It explains, “Due to the rate of speed and volume of debris in LEO, current and future space-based services, explorations, and operations pose a safety risk to people and property in space and on Earth.”


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