An object that could be garbage from the International Space Station hits a house in Florida

According to European Space Agency, the chance of a person being injured by a piece of space debris falling to Earth is one in a hundred billion. And yet, that is what the family of Alejandro Otero, a resident of Naples, Florida, almost experienced. whose two-story house was hit by an object that NASA is investigating if it is space junk coming from the International Space Station.

The event took place on March 8 at 2:34 p.m.when an Otero home security camera captured the sound of the object hitting the ceiling and crossing the two floors of the building.

Alejandro Otero was not there at that time, but yes your son. “It was a tremendous noise. He almost hit my son. He was two rooms away and heard it all.“Otero explained to the Wink media. “Something went through the house and then made a big hole in the floor and ceiling. When we heard that, we thought, impossible, and immediately I thought it was a meteorite”.

The recorded time of impact is very close to the time, 2:29 p.m.., in which the United States Space Command recorded the re-entry into the atmosphere of garbage from the International Space Station over the Gulf of Mexico, heading to southwest Florida.

This garbage consisted of a cargo platform or pallet with 9 depleted batteries that was launched from the ISS in 2021 to perform an unguided re-entry. The cylindrical object, weighing almost 1 kilogram, that fell into Otero's house could be part of one of those batteries that had not disintegrated during reentry.

A NASA spokesperson, Josh Finchhas confirmed to Ars Technica that the object has been recovered and that engineers at the Kennedy Space Center They will analyze it “as soon as possible to determine its origin. More information will be available once the analysis is complete.”

According to the space agency, the charging platform that was launched into space with the 9 disused batteries had a mass of more than 2.6 tons and a height equivalent to twice that of a standard refrigerator. Objects of this size and larger, such as spent rocket stages or satellites reaching the end of their useful life, regularly fall to Earth but always in guided trajectories. This was the largest object that has been launched into the atmosphere uncontrolled from the ISS.

International Space Stationthe reasonPOT

On March 8, NASA had assured that space debris from the ISS “would re-enter the Earth's atmosphere without causing damage. We do not expect any part to have survived re-entry”. The European Space Agency, however, stated before the re-entry that some fragments of the loading platform and its contents could survive the thousands of degrees temperatures experienced upon re-entry and reach land.

Why was that cargo platform thrown into space?

The chain of circumstances that ended with the possible disposal of the ISS at Otero's house began in 2018. That year, the NASA astronaut Nick Hague and the Russian commander Alexey Ovchinin They aborted their launch on a Soyuz spacecraft due to a failure in the rocket. Their destination was the International Space Station.

One of Hague's tasks was to be perform spacewalks to help install a new set of lithium-ion batteries for the ISS power system. These batteries were transported to the station by the Japanese HTV freighters.

Japanese HTV freighter with the battery charging pallet.
Japanese HTV freighter with the battery charging pallet.POT.

These are unmanned spacecraft used to deliver certain payloads to the ISS and have a capacity of 6 tons. However, they cannot dock in any of the ISS modules, so it is the robotic arm of the station who is in charge of catching him. When your mission comes to an end, it is done a controlled reentry that destroys the ship.

The problem was that since Hague was not on the ISS as planned, the batteries that were replaced could not be loaded back into the HTV, so he left without them at the end of his mission. This gap forced the spent batteries to be charged on the next HTV that arrived with new batteries, leaving a charging platform with used batteries on the ISS again.

This was the case until there were no more HTVs to fly. Japan's last HTV spacecraft departed from the ISS in 2020 with the cargo pallet and batteries from the previous missionleaving the last battery pack stranded at the station. These cannot be accommodated on any of the space station's other cargo vehicles, so NASA decided to launch them using the station's robotic arm in March 2021.