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 lawsuits

Florida Family Sues NASA After Space Junk Crashes Through Their Home

The claim could set a precedent for future run-ins with space debris.

By Cassidy Ward
space junk

What would you do if an object from space crashed through the Earth’s atmosphere and into your house? That’s a question usually reserved for fictional characters, like those in the 2021 disaster flick Asteroid (streaming now on Peacock!), but recently a Florida family got a real-world visit from outer space when a bit of space junk sucker punched their house from orbit.

Back on March 8, 2024, an object estimated to weigh 2 pounds reportedly crashed through the roof of a Florida home shortly after a pallet of aged nickel hydride batteries was jettisoned from the International Space Station. Nobody was injured, but the family’s 19-year-old son was home at the time, a couple of rooms away from the point of impact.

There was some doubt at the time about who, if anyone, was liable for the damages, and there wasn’t a clear road map forward. There still isn’t. But now the family is suing NASA for approximately $80,000 to cover their damages.

For More on Space Junk:
How Scientists Are Mapping and Attempting to Clean Up Some 100 Million Pieces of Space Debris
Space Junk Scavenger from Airbus Launched to Clean Up Space Waste
The Atmosphere Is Polluted with Pieces of Burnt Up Spacecrafts

Florida Family Sues NASA After Space Junk Smashes Through Their Roof

Space junk.

NASA recovered the object for analysis shortly after impact and confirmed that it was a stanchion from the flight support equipment used to mount the batteries to the pallet. The entire jettisoned payload was expected to burn up in the atmosphere, but at least one piece clearly survived long enough to reach the surface.

The legal uncertainty over how to proceed comes largely from an international agreement known as the Space Liability Convention (SLC), otherwise known as the Convention on International Liability for Damage Caused by Space Objects. It was put in place in 1972 and governs the way nations and space agencies must respond in the event that space operations cause damage inside another nation’s borders.

If, for example, the same piece of space debris had crashed through the roof of a home in Canada, then the United States would be absolutely liable to pay compensation, under the SLC. For the same reasons, if the stanchion had belonged to another space agency, that agency would have had absolute liability for compensating victims in the United States. However, because the debris was owned by NASA and fell inside the United States, the incident is a wholly domestic affair and doesn’t fall under the purview of the SLC. Instead, the family has to file an official claim against NASA for damages, and that’s what they’ve done.

The family is suing NASA for uninsured property damage, business interruption damages, emotional and mental anguish, and other damages, NPR reports. The family’s attorney, Mica Nguyen Worthy, filed a claim in May, seeking approximately $80,000. Worthy notes that the family is not looking for a windfall, just for NASA to make them whole, in the wake of an otherworldly incident.

“My clients are seeking adequate compensation to account for the stress and impact that this event had on their lives. They are grateful that no one sustained physical injuries from this incident, but a ‘near miss’ situation such as this could have been catastrophic. If the debris had hit a few feet in another direction, there could have been serious injury or a fatality," Worthy said, in a statement from the law firm of Cranfill Sumner, where Worthy is a Partner and Chair of the firm’s Aviation & Aerospace Practice Group.

Much like the astronauts living and working in space, we’re operating in uncharted territory. This might be the first time space debris has impacted a person or property but, with the growing number of launches and subsequent increase in space junk, it might not be the last. The hope is that this claim will not only compensate the family fairly for their losses, but also establish a clearer path for any future victims. How NASA responds will likely set a precedent for how future claims are handled both by government space agencies and private industries in the future. The agency has six months to review and respond to the claim.

Asteroid is streaming now on Peacock!

Read more about: