On January 28, 1986, the space shuttle Challenger malfunctioned shortly after liftoff, killing seven crew members on board. Now, a fragment of the doomed spacecraft has been found on the seafloor off the coast of Florida. A documentary crew making a TV show for the History Channel discovered the underwater artifact while searching for the wreckage of the plane.
In a statement Thursday, NASA said it had reviewed the footage and confirmed the wreckage was from the Challenger. The loss of Challenger and later Columbia in 2003 prompted NASA to end all shuttle missions and continue to improve its safety efforts.
The History Channel shared a preview Thursday for a show that will delve into the discovery of the artifact. It will air as part of the Bermuda Triangle series. Although fragments of the Challenger were not found in the Bermuda Triangle, this marine area has a reputation in the city for missing ships and planes.
The footage shows divers clearing sand from the relic, with fish swimming on it. The segment measured about 20 feet (6 meters) in length and consisted of a series of 8-inch (20-centimeter) fragments. “I think we need to talk to NASA,” one of the divers said at the end of the clip. “Bermuda Triangle – Into Cursed Waters” will air on the History Channel on Tuesday, November 22.
NASA did not say which part of the space shuttle the piece of debris came from, but it appears to coincide with the belly of the spacecraft. The space agency has been collecting debris from the disaster for years, and part of the space shuttle’s left wing washed up on the coast of Florida in 1996.
The Challenger disaster is a painful moment in the collective memory of those living at the time. Where were you when it happened?
NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said: “This discovery gives us an opportunity to pause again, to revive the legacy of our lost seven pioneers, and to reflect on how this tragedy has changed us.”
Space Shuttle artifacts are the property of the United States government. NASA “is currently considering other possible actions on the artifact to properly honor the legacy of the astronauts who died on Challenger and the families who loved them.”