Syfy Insider Exclusive

Create a free profile to get unlimited access to exclusive videos, sweepstakes, and more!

Sign Up For Free to View
SYFY WIRE International Space Station

A Florida Home May Have Been Hit by Debris from Space

It's like winning the world's worst lottery.

By Cassidy Ward

The 2021 movie Asteroid tells the story of a space rock and a family with the worst luck in the universe. They leave their hectic lives in the big city for a quieter existence in a small town, but then their plans run into a tiny speed bump; their new home is in the direct path of an oncoming asteroid.

Recently, Alejandro Otero, a resident of Naples, Florida, lived through a similar experience (on a smaller scale) when a piece of space debris crashed through his roof. The unexpected delivery from space happened on March 8, 2024, and was punctuated by the high-speed arrival of a 2-pound hunk of metal from orbit. The origin and nature of the object isn’t yet confirmed, but it’s suspected to have been a used battery from the International Space Station (ISS).

How a Piece of Space Junk (Allegedly) Smashed Through a Florida Home

In the days leading up to March 8, a number of agencies around the world were watching as a piece of space junk wound its way toward the planet. The debris in question was a pallet of used batteries jettisoned from the ISS a few years ago, and it had been on a slowly degrading orbit ever since. The day before it came back to Earth, the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Space Debris and Independent Safety Offices were monitoring its likely entry paths. They estimated its mass prior to reentry at 2.6 metric tons and predicted that some of that mass could survive the trip to the ground.

Space debris of that size reenters the atmosphere all the time, but it usually happens in a controlled way. Dead satellites and other debris get nudged in a particular direction so that they come down over the Pacific, falling into the world’s spaceship graveyard. In this case, that didn’t happen, and the reasons are complicated.

For More on Space Debris:
How Scientists Are Mapping and Attempting to Clean Up Some 100 Million Pieces of Space Debris
Watch the Final Moments of a Dead Satellite As It Tumbles Through the Atmosphere
The Atmosphere Is Polluted with Pieces of Burnt Up Spacecrafts

LEO Space Junk Map

In 2018, NASA astronaut Nick Hague and Russian cosmonaut Aleksey Ovchinin launched toward the ISS from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. They got part of the way there, but a booster failure meant that they didn’t reach orbit and had to abort. Both ‘nauts safely made it back to Earth, but the scrapped mission introduced a delay in the plan to upgrade the station’s electrical systems. One of the consequences of that delay was that a pallet full of used batteries got stranded on the station with no way to get home.

With no other options, the crew eventually opted to toss the pallet into space with the station’s robotic arm in 2021 and let gravity sort it out. Over the last three years, tiny interactions with the wispy edges of Earth’s atmosphere tugged on the pallet, slowing it down and pulling it closer. We knew it would come down eventually, we just didn’t know when or where.

An in-home security camera captured an object punching through Otero’s ceiling at 2:34 p.m. local time, just five minutes after U.S. Space Command detected reentry of the pallet. Otero posted about the incident, complete with pictures of the object and the damage, on X (formerly Twitter). NASA officials have since recovered the object for investigation, according to NASA spokesperson Joshua Finch.

If the object is confirmed to have been NASA property, Otero may be able to file a claim for the damage to his home, but it might fall into nebulous legal terrain. The batteries on the pallet were owned by NASA, but the pallet itself was owned by the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), so it isn’t totally clear who is responsible. And if it turns out not to have been one of those batteries at all, then we’ve got bigger questions than who’s going to fix Otero’s roof.

We prefer our house punching space objects to remain fictional, catch Asteroid streaming now on Peacock!