Mysterious object that crashed through Florida home was likely space junk from the International Space Station

The pallet and the batteries immediately after being jettisoned from the ISS in 2021.
The pallet and the batteries immediately after being jettisoned from the ISS in 2021. (Image credit: NASA/Mike Hopkins via Twitter)

A mysterious object that came crashing through a house in Florida is possibly debris from the International Space Station (ISS).

The cylindrical tube was a few inches long and weighed nearly 2 pounds (0.9 kilograms). It crashed through the roof and both floors of Alejandro Otero's home in Naples, Florida, at 2:34 pm local on March 8, startling his son.

The origins of the object have yet to be determined, but Otero thinks it's likely one of nine drained batteries discarded from the ISS. Earlier the same day, a large cargo pallet carrying the  batteries and belonging to the Japanese space agency JAXA re-entered Earth's atmosphere over the Gulf of Mexico. Jettisoned from the space station in 2021, the debris was expected to burn up in the atmosphere, one may have survived reentry. 

"Looks like one of those pieces missed Ft Myers and landed in my house in Naples," Otero wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter, in response to a post describing the jettisoned pallet. "Tore through the roof and went thru 2 floors. Almost his [hit] my son."

Related: Sci-fi inspired tractor beams are real, and could solve a major space junk problem

Otero has handed over the home-wrecking debris to officials from NASA.

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"NASA collected an item in cooperation with the homeowner, and will analyze the object at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida as soon as possible to determine its origin," Joshua Finch, a NASA spokesperson, told Live Science.

Once engineers identify the provenance of the object, Otero will seek to make a claim against the federal government to pay for his house's repair, although this process could prove complex if the material is deemed to have come from JAXA.

Florida isn't the only place that's been hit by falling space junk. Four of China's Long March 5B boosters — the workhorses of the country's growing space program — fell to Earth between 2020 and 2022, raining debris down on the Ivory Coast, Borneo and the Indian Ocean. In 2021 and 2022, debris from falling SpaceX rockets smashed into a farm in Washington state and landed on a sheep farm in Australia.

Space agencies around the world try to keep tabs on the more than 30,000 largest pieces of junk, but many more pieces of debris are too small to monitor.

Scientists have proposed multiple ways of tidying Earth's skies, such as gathering junk up in nets; collecting it with clawed robots; or firing a half–mile-long (0.8 kilometer) tether from another spacecraft to grab it.

Ben Turner
Staff Writer

Ben Turner is a U.K. based staff writer at Live Science. He covers physics and astronomy, among other topics like tech and climate change. He graduated from University College London with a degree in particle physics before training as a journalist. When he's not writing, Ben enjoys reading literature, playing the guitar and embarrassing himself with chess.

  • Homer100
    I saw a picture of the object, and it sure looked like a part of a battery module. The batteries were housed in these cylinders. I worked on testing the ISS power system when I worked for Space Systems Loral in 1995. I did some Electro Magnet Compatibility testing with these batteries.
    Reply
  • Lisa B.
    Shades of Dead Like Me!
    cNHDFf1YLlcView: https://youtu.be/cNHDFf1YLlc?si=VYJOL9AwObwhzI7M
    Reply