A piece of the space shuttle Challenger has been found in the Atlantic Ocean nearly 37 years after it exploded following liftoff.
History Channel documentary divers and crew searching for WWII-era aircraft wreckage in Florida first spotted a large object that appeared to be man-made. Because of its “modern construction and presence of 8-inch square tiles,” their proximity to the Florida Space Coast, they alerted NASA of their find. The agency confirmed the authenticity of the shuttle debris, and newly-released footage filmed in May 2022 shows the exact moment of discovery.
“While it has been nearly 37 years since seven daring and brave explorers lost their lives aboard Challenger, this tragedy will forever be seared in the collective memory of our country,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson says. “For millions around the globe, myself included, January 28, 1986, still feels like yesterday.”
Challenger exploded shortly after take-off. An unexpected cold front affected the integrity of the seals in the rocket booster, leading to the major malfunction. All seven crew on board were lost.
“This discovery gives us an opportunity to pause once again, to uplift the legacies of the seven pioneers we lost, and to reflect on how this tragedy changed us,” Nelson says. “At NASA, the core value of safety is—and must forever remain—our top priority, especially as our missions explore more of the cosmos than ever before.”
According to The History Channel, the piece is the first wreckage from the Challenger disaster to be discovered in more than 25 years. NASA has not released any further details about what the piece may be, but confirmed its authenticity in a press release. It is still trying to determine what to do with the discovered piece. The documentary showing the discovery of the Challenger artifact aired on Tuesday, November 22.