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NASA Confirms History Channel Discovery Of Space Shuttle Challenger Wreckage Off Florida East Coast

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Divers for a History Channel documentary on World War II-era ocean wreckages have instead found a large, long-missing piece of the space shuttle Challenger, which exploded and fell into the Atlantic Ocean 73 seconds after liftoff at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Jan. 28, 1986.

NASA confirmed the authenticity of the find today after viewing footage of the dive.

“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,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson in a statement. “For millions around the globe, myself included, Jan. 28, 1986, still feels like yesterday.

“This discovery,” he continued, “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 20-foot piece of the shuttle was discovered by divers – exactly when is unclear – by divers filming the upcoming History Channel documentary The Bermuda Triangle: Into Cursed Waters. Though they were looking for World War II-era wreckages, the divers noticed what NASA describes as a “humanmade object covered partially by sand on the seafloor.”

Watch video of the discovery below.

According to NASA, the proximity to the Florida Space Coast, along with the artifact’s modern construction and presence of 8-inch square tiles, led the documentary team to contact NASA.

In a tweet today, the History Channel called the find “the first discovery of wreckage from the 1986 Space Shuttle Challenger in more than 25 years.” The Bermuda Triangle: Into Cursed Waters debuts on Tuesday, November 22.

NASA said it “currently is considering what additional actions it may take regarding the artifact that will properly honor the legacy of Challenger’s fallen astronauts and the families who loved them.”

By law, all space shuttle artifacts are the property of the U.S. government.

The doomed Challenger mission was commanded by Francis R. “Dick” Scobee and piloted by Michael J. Smith. The other crew members were Ronald E. McNair, Ellison S. Onizuka, Judith A. Resnik, Gregory B. Jarvis and S. Christa McAuliffe. It was the then-novel participation of a civilian, the school teacher McAuliffe, that generated considerable public interest in the lift-off, and had millions of people watching live as the tragedy unfolded.

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