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A Florida family whose home was hit by space debris is suing NASA

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A family is seeking compensation from NASA after metal debris from the International Space Station tore off the roof of their home in Naples, Fla., in March.

No one was injured, but a legal representative for the Otero family described the incident as a “near miss” that “could have been devastating.” In a press release issued Friday.

Homeowner Alejandro Otero previously told The Washington Post that he received a panicked call from his son on the day of the incident. He returned home to find a dense, cylindrical shape of charred metal, slightly smaller than a soup pot, embedded in the wall, and immediately knew it was “from outer space.”

“My clients are seeking adequate compensation for the stress and impact this event has had on their lives,” said Micah Nguyen Worthy, the family’s attorney. Press release. “Had the debris hit a few feet in the other direction, serious injury or death would have occurred.”

NASA did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the legal claim.

Before NASA Confident A 1.6-pound cylindrical object smashed through the roof of Otero’s home, a 5,800-pound cargo tray carrying old nickel hydride batteries released from the International Space Station in March 2021.

The space junk was expected to burn up upon re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere, but somehow survived, fueling concerns that such incidents may increase in the future.

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“Space debris is a real and serious problem with the increase in space traffic in recent years,” Worthy said.

How NASA responds to the claim could set a legal precedent for how it handles such incidents when they involve U.S. citizens and residents, Worthy said. He asks that the NASA family’s case be treated in the same manner as fulfilling its obligations under it International Space Law.

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In the case of international incidents, the “Launch State” – the country that procured the launch of a product or the country from which it was launched – is responsible for any damage caused by its products. In the early 80s, the Soviet Union agreed to pay Millions in compensation for defunct satellite burning in Canada

“If this incident happened overseas, and someone in another country was damaged by the same space debris as in the Oteros case, the U.S. would be absolutely liable for those damages,” Worthy said.

Worthy did not immediately respond to questions in the lawsuit, including how much the family is seeking. He said in the publication Science and Technology Ars Technica The claim is “in excess of $80,000.”

NASA has six months to respond to the claim under the federal Torts Claims Act, he said in a news release. The claim includes uninsured property damage loss, business interruption damages, emotional and mental anguish damages, and the costs of third-party assistance.

Praveena Somasundaram and Daniel Wu contributed to this report.

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