Long-lost wreckage of Challenger spacecraft discovered near Bermuda Triangle
NASA has confirmed that debris found on the ocean floor off the Atlantic coast of Florida is from the space shuttle Challenger, which exploded on January 28, 1986, killing all seven astronauts on board.
Divers discovered the 20ft (6m) section of Challenger’s hull while searching for downed World War II planes as part of a History Channel documentary series, ‘The Bermuda Triangle: Into Cursed Waters”. To the northwest of the Triangle, the filmmakers found a patch of seabed containing modern-looking debris, partially covered in sand. Given the debris’ proximity to NASA’s Kennedy Space Flight Center in Florida, the filmmakers thought it might be related to the space agency and contacted NASA about the find.
NASA reviewed the team’s images and confirmed that the debris was from Challenger. NASA then informed the families of the seven astronauts before announcing the discovery on November 10.
“This tragedy will forever be etched in our nation’s collective memory,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said in a statement. statement (opens in a new tab). “This discovery gives us the opportunity to pause once again, to look back on the legacy of the seven pioneers we lost, and to reflect on how this tragedy has changed us.”
The hull – Challenger’s first major discovery in more than 25 years – will remain on the ocean floor while NASA determines the next stage of its recovery. By law, all of this debris belongs to the federal government.
At the time of its 10th launch, dubbed STS-51L, Challenger was one of four space shuttles operated by NASA, and the agency had been flying the reusable “space trucks” to and from low Earth orbit for nearly five years. . NASA later learned that freezing temperatures the night before launch compromised a seal on a solid rocket booster, causing the orbiter to explode explosively 73 seconds into the flight.
The seven-person crew included a teacher, Christa McAuliffe, who reportedly gave live lessons from orbit. The planned six-day mission would also have seen astronauts conduct scientific research and release a satellite from the shuttle’s payload bay.
The shocking Challenger tragedy marked the first in-flight fatalities in NASA’s manned space program, which began in 1961. Three astronauts who died in a fire aboard Apollo 1 in 1967 were conducting pre-launch tests on the ground. In 2003, the space shuttle Columbia crashed upon reentry, killing its seven astronauts.
NASA recovered just under half of Challenger’s wreckage, much of which is buried in abandoned missile silos near Kennedy Space Center, where only a fragment of the fuselage – painted with an American flag – is on display.
A&E networks (opens in a new tab)owner of the History Channel, said the debut of its six-part documentary series on November 22 will feature footage of the Challenger discovery.