Nearly 37 years after the space shuttle Challenger exploded, a television crew found a remnant of the shuttle while diving underwater.
The artifact was discovered by a documentary television crew searching for World War II aircraft wreckage, NASA confirmed in a press release Thursday. The divers spotted “a large man-made object partially covered in sand on the seafloor”, and the team contacted NASA because the materials appeared modern and were located near the Florida Space Coast.
The team was filming for an upcoming series to air on the History Channel. They began diving near the Florida coast in March.
“The importance of this large part of Challenger’s structure was evident,” Mike Barnette, who led the team that made the discovery, said in a History Channel press release. “We recognized the need to bring this discovery to NASA’s immediate attention.”
NASA officials then viewed footage of the divers and confirmed that the find was part of the Space Shuttle Challenger, according to NASA’s press release. The rest is at least 15ft by 15ft, and it could be bigger as part of it is covered in sand. Officials believe it was a piece of the shuttle’s belly.
The Challenger was a space shuttle that crashed after liftoff in January 1986. All seven people on board were killed, including Christa McAuliffe, who was the first teacher to go into space.
“As it has been nearly 37 years since seven daring and courageous explorers lost their lives aboard the Challenger, this tragedy will forever be etched in the collective memory of our country. For millions of people around the world, myself included, January 28, 1986 still feels like it was yesterday,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said.
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NASA officials are still considering what to do with the remains in an effort to honor those who died on the shuttle and their families. The fragment is currently still in the ocean.
The History Channel documentary detailing the first discoveries on November 22. The episode is part of a series about the Bermuda Triangle, although the area where the artifact was found is northwest of the fabled part of the Atlantic Ocean.
Contributor: Associated Press