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Tuesday, April 9, 2024

It Came From Outer Space

By Catherine Powell

Image courtesy Pixabay

While most insurance claims are run of the mill, some of them are over the top.  In fact, some insurance claims and policies are literally out of this world.  Before you start thinking that I've been watching too many reruns on the Syfy Channel, allow me to point out that there are many reasons why some people have chosen to be concerned with things that come from outer space.  There have also been quite a few news reports on folks who have had their property damaged by debris that originated in outer space.  To keep all my loyal readers in the loop, I decided to point out some of the incidents that have occurred, as well as some policies that have been offered to help those who are concerned with otherworldly visitors who may not have their best interest at heart.

Extraterrestrial Insurance Claim - A recent podcast on World Radio detailed the close encounter of a Florida family whose home was invaded by something weird from outer space.  Granted, the home wrecker was only a 3-inch-long metal cylinder.  But it crashed through their roof with such velocity that it wound up embedded in the floor two stories below.  It also narrowly missed their son who heard the impact.  After doing some research, his mother determined that the piece of space junk had likely come from the International Space Station which was scheduled to expel debris that day, although the space trash was supposed to burn up on reentry.  After contacting NASA and emailing them a photo of the piece of space junk, an official at the space agency admitted that the cylinder had likely come from the ISS.  

It's Raining Men- On August 27 in China, a rocket was launched that was designed to deliver a satellite to orbit.  However, it unintentionally delivered something out of this world to a Chinese resident. Several hours after the launch, a man-sized chunk of debris crashed through the roof of one Fuquan resident's home.  The space junk turned out to be a nozzle from the first stage of the Chinese booster rocket.  What's worse is that this kind of incident is nothing new for citizens living near the Taiyuan Space Launch Center.  Apparently de-orbited pieces of space hardware are known to come crashing down in the vicinity from time to time.  Back in December 2013, several pieces of the discarded booster rocket used to take China's first rover to the moon rained down on a village in Hunan province, including one that crashed through the roof of a barn and another that hit a high voltage power line causing a blackout.  In 2002, a 22-pound chunk of space junk fell from the sky to injure a Chinese boy.  The boy's family was later compensated the equivalent of $48 to compensate them for his medical bills.

Image courtesy Pixabay

Blast from the Past - It isn't only in China where space junk has fallen from the sky.  Back in 2003, Texas rancher Mac Powell woke one morning to find a piece of the Space Shuttle Columbia replete with heat shield tiles sticking out of the ground on his property.  In 1978 when a Russian spy satellite scattered radioactive debris across some 80,000 square miles of northern Canada, the USSR paid $3 million to the Canadian government.  They also provided nuclear technicians to help clean up the mess.  Fortunately, the Cosmos 954 satellite's debris fell over a sparsely populated area causing no injuries or reported property damage.

Between a Rock & a Hard Place - Debris from spacecraft aren't the only things that come from outer space that can cause damage.  In 2023, a family sedan in Strasborg France received substantial damage when a meteorite hit it.  The car, which looked as though a cannonball had gone through the roof, had all its windows blown out.   The vehicle also sustained damage to its underbelly and fuel tank.  Fortunately nobody was in the car at the time.  A blog by the Express reported that, "Fire brigade captain Matthieu Colobert provided more details, saying "no object" was found inside the car but whatever damaged it made a "significant" impact given it cut through several layers of metal." 

While unusual, meteorite impacts on vehicles and homes are not unknown.  On October 9, 1992, a 2-ton meteorite entered the Earth's atmosphere only to have one flaming chunk go through the trunk of a red Chevy Malibu parked in Peekskill, NY.  The car's owner, 18-year-old Michelle Knapp, had only recently purchased the car from her grandmother for $400.  The bad news was the Malibu was totaled by the impact.  The good news is that Michelle sold the car to Iris Lang, wife of renown meteorite collector Al Lang, for more than twice what she paid for it.  Michelle also received a tidy sum for the meteorite itself which had survived it's fiery trip through the atmosphere only to be recovered after the incident.  The car's title and damaged taillight were later sold at auction in 2012 for $5,000.

Image courtesy Pixabay

To date, there has only been one person who has ever been proven to have been struck by a piece of space debris.  That happened on November 30, 1954 when Sylacauga, Alabama resident Ann Hodges took an afternoon catnap only to have an 8.5 pound meteor crash through her roof, ricochet off a console radio and strike her on the hip.  The impact on her left a cantaloupe-sized bruise on her side which received a lot of play in the media in the days to come.  It also sent Ann briefly to the hospital.  After she recovered, it was to find that her landlord wished to claim the meteorite that hit her for himself.  After haggling, Ann and her husband paid their landlord $500 (more than $5,500 in today's money) for sole possession of the space rock.  While they hoped to sell the meteorite to a collector, by the time they managed to lay claim to it media attention had dwindled.  After using the relic as a doorstop for many years, they eventually donated it to the Alabama Museum of Natural History.

Who do you sue if a chunk of space debris falls from the sky to injure you or damage your property? That's a good question. Although there are treaties in place regarding space junk, these are only meant to compensate countries but not individuals for damage caused by de-orbited spacecraft.   If you have homeowner's insurance on your home and comprehensive coverage on your vehicle, the damage should be a covered claim if either takes a direct hit from falling debris.  While there are policies that have been issued for alien abduction, there are none as of yet for debris that falls from the sky, even though the amount of junk orbiting the Earth has risen sharply in recent years.  

If a piece of space junk whistles through the sky only to hit you, hopefully your medical coverage is up to snuff.  If not, it can be nearly impossible to sue the party responsible, even if you can determine which country launched the spacecraft that caused your injury.  The only other way to seek redress from random bits of space junk that cause you or your property harm is to quickly make hay in the media and at the auction house from any alien artifacts that come from outer space.

Catherine Powell is the owner of A Plus All Florida, Insurance in Orange Park, Florida.  To find out more ways to save on flood insurance, check out her website at


  1. The way Elon Musk is putting payloads in orbit, it's only a matter of time before someone on Earth finds a chunk of a SpaceX booster or payload sticking out of the ground.

  2. Our localized sky, (aka Space) is full of space junk and now a days, it falling to earth on a regular basis. I guess it's time to be repeating, chicken little and starts crying, "the sky is falling".


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