Friday, September 23, 2011
Sometime this afternoon, NASAâ€™s Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite (UARS) is expected to re-enter earthâ€™s atmosphere.
While us earthlings are watching with great anticipation to see where pieces ofÂ the satellite willÂ land, NASA assures us we have nothing to worry about as the risk to public safety or property is extremely small:
Since the beginning of the Space Age in the late-1950s, there have been no confirmed reports of an injury resulting from re-entering space objects. Nor is there a record of significant property damage resulting from a satellite re-entry.â€
Despite NASAâ€™s reassurances, many canâ€™t help but wonder what would happen if space debris did hit a house or car.
Insurance Journal reminds us that the United States is a party to the 1972 Convention on International Liability for Damage Caused by Space Objects.
Under the Convention, the U.S. is internationally liable to pay compensation for damage caused by its space object on the surface of the earth or to aircraft in flight.
Slate goes a step further and poses the hypothetical question of whether, in the absence of government compensation, a standard U.S. homeowners or auto insurance policy would cover damage from space debris.
While most standard homeowners policies do cover damage due to falling objects, itâ€™s always a good idea to check whatâ€™s covered in your individual policy. Cars damaged or destroyed by space debris would be covered under the optional comprehensive portion of a standard auto insurance policy.
Even better news is that North America does not appear to be in the target re-entry zone for UARS.
For the space buffs out there, a recent Swiss Re paper on space debris considers the insurance impact of debris colliding with operational satellites in space.