NASA has confirmed that a piece of the space shuttle Challenger has been discovered by a TV documentary crew seeking the wreckage of a World War II-era aircraft off the East coast of Florida.
The History Channel posted a video of the discovery on Twitter, calling it the “first discovery of wreckage from the 1986 Space Shuttle Challenger in more than 25 years.”
NASA leaders viewed the footage from and confirmed it was from space shuttle Challenger.
“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. For millions around the globe, myself included, Jan. 28, 1986, still feels like yesterday,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson. “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. 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.”
The last Challenger mission, dubbed STS-51L, was commanded by Francis R. “Dick” Scobee and piloted by Michael J. Smith. The other crew members on board were mission specialists Ronald E. McNair; Ellison S. Onizuka, and Judith A. Resnik; payload specialist Gregory B. Jarvis; and teacher S. Christa McAuliffe.
A major malfunction 73 seconds after liftoff resulted in the loss of Challenger and the seven astronauts aboard. An agency investigation later showed unexpectedly cold temperatures affected the integrity of O-ring seals in the solid rocket booster segment joints.
The History Channel documentary depicting the discovery of the Challenger artifact is scheduled to air Tuesday, Nov. 22.
Although the episode will appear as part of a series about the Bermuda Triangle, the artifact was found in waters off Florida’s Space Coast, well northwest of the area popularly known as the Bermuda Triangle.