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An American family wants to make NASA pay for its space debris



Only the family’s 19-year-old son was present in the house at the time of the incident, told NPR last April. “When he called me to give me some news, he asked me to be seated so I could listen to what he had to say.”declared his father Alejandro Otero.

“He didn’t even know how to explain to me what happened and we had to watch and listen to the security cameras to try to piece together.” the incident, he added.

The trail of space debris quickly emerged and NASA finally confirmed that the cylindrical object, weighing around 700 grams, was a battery cell on the International Space Station (ISS). It was part of a batch of more than 2.5 tonnes of ISS debris dropped into space in 2021, expected to disintegrate upon entering Earth’s atmosphere.

Six months to respond

Considering NASA responsible, the Otero family is now demanding more than 80,000 dollars (nearly 75,000 euros) from it. “for uninsured property damage, business interruption damage, emotional and mental damage and third party assistance costs”, reports the site Ars Technica. NASA has six months to respond.

“We intentionally set a very reasonable amount, because we don’t want NASA to think that my clients are trying to take advantage of the situation”assures Mica Nguyen Worthy, the family’s lawyer.

The Oteros did not take legal action against NASA – “at least not yet”underlines the lawyer, who claims to have “productive conversations with legal representatives” of the American space agency. “The Otero family wants to be compensated for the damage, but also to set a precedent for future victims”she says.

Unprecedented

In fact, this case is “unprecedented”observe Ars Technica. “No one has ever submitted such a claim to NASA” And “how the space agency responds will set an important precedent in a world where activity in orbit continues to grow, and space debris and vehicles are making more and more uncontrolled re-entries into the Earth’s atmosphere ”.

Ironically, it is because the battery that fell in Florida is American-made that there is a legal loophole. If it had been Russian, European or from anywhere other than the United States, “victims would be entitled to compensation, under the Convention on International Liability for Damage Caused by Space Objects, adopted by space powers half a century ago”, underlines the site. But as its name suggests, this convention only covers international disputes.

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