Florida Home Potentially Hit by Fragment from ISS Battery Pallet

3rd Apr 2024
Florida Home Potentially Hit by Fragment from ISS Battery Pallet

In 2021, NASA disposed of a significant pallet of spent batteries from the International Space Station (ISS), anticipating their disintegration upon reentry into Earth’s atmosphere. Recently, remnants of discarded items from the space station descended through the atmosphere. However, a fragment may have survived and crashed through a family residence in Florida.

On 8 March, a two-pound cylindrical-shaped object crashed through the roof of a family home in Naples, Florida, causing damage to both the ceiling and the floor. Interestingly, this incident coincided with the reentry of the ISS pallet, which descended through the atmosphere on the same day over the Gulf of Mexico before heading toward southwest Florida.

Assessing the Likelihood of ISS Battery Pallet Involvement

Jonathan McDowell, an astrophysicist renowned for his extensive analysis of atmospheric reentries, which includes thorough examinations of thousands of cases, believes that the timing and location of the incident are consistent with the damage potentially coming from the ISS battery pallet.

“Often we get reentries like this and someone from several hundred miles away saying, ‘I found this weird thing in my backyard that may have fallen today or may have been there for a week,’ and I roll my eyes and move on. But this came through the roof, and it came through the roof at the right time in the right place.”

McDowell helped Alejandro Otero, the house owner hit by the potential remnants of the ISS battery pallet, connect with the Aerospace Corporation, a non-profit research and development center. Following this collaboration, NASA retrieved the debris from Otero and is analyzing it to determine its origin. While the timing and location are consistent with the space station’s pallet of old batteries, its exact nature and source have yet to be confirmed.

Evaluating NASA’s Decision: ISS Battery Pallet Disposal

In March 2021, the International Space Station (ISS) disposed of a 2.9-ton pallet containing nine batteries using the Canadarm2 robotic arm. This pallet, the largest object ever jettisoned from the ISS, embarked on a slow spiral toward Earth, leading to an uncontrolled reentry. NASA’s intention was for the entire pallet to burn up during reentry or at least for any debris to avoid populated areas.

McDowell, however, expressed concern over the large piece of space junk when it was thrown out, arguing that it was too large for an uncontrolled reentry. He suggested that NASA was rolling the dice with this one and took an unlucky throw.

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