Man's Attorney Contacts NASA After Space Station Debris Smashes Through His House

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As NPR reports, Naples, Florida resident Alejandro Otero's life has been turned upside down after a two-pound battery pallet from the ISS plummeted through the roof of his house. Now he's tussling with NASA over who should be held responsible for the damage.

In March, Otero noted in a since-deleted post on X-formerly-Twitter that the cylindrical hunk of metal "tore through the roof" and rocketed through two floors of his house while he was out of town, leaving his 19-year-old son to handle the situation all on his own.

"When he called me to give me the news," Otero told NPR, "he asked us to make sure we were sitting down to hear when he had to tell us."

Initially, it was unclear what had even happened, and the family had to piece together what had happened with their home security camera. Eventually, Otero concluded that the thing that tore a hole through two stories of his house was related to space travel — but it took more than a month for NASA to admit it and collect the debris.

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Along with the emotional toll of such a fiasco, there was also significant physical damage to Otero's home. As he told NPR, an insurance adjuster set the cost of repairs at around $15,000, and there were other injuries to the house that aren't covered, either.

"We are in the process of sending NASA our claim which will include the insurance and non-insurance damages," the man said, adding that his attorney had been in touch with NASA's legal team.

As the European Space Agency noted in its initial warning about the cylindrical piece that crashed into the Otero home, fragments fall off of space crafts and satellites on a weekly basis, and are generally expected to burn up upon reentry to the atmosphere. As the nightmarish situation experienced by the Otero family shows, however, that's not always the case.

"This is kind of unprecedented," Mark Sundahl, the director of the Global Space Law Center at Cleveland State University, told NPR.

While there are strict rules governing what happens if crafts or satellites from separate national entities crash into each other, or if a piece of one country's spaceware crash-lands into another country, the fact that the piece came from an American vessel and landed on American soil makes the rules fuzzier.

"It becomes a domestic legal issue," Sundahl explains, "and a homeowner would have to bring a tort action against the federal government."

As of now, it's unclear whether the family plans to do so — but given how weird the situation is, it's not out of the question.

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