On January 28th, 1986, the space shuttle Challenger — carrying six crew members and one teacher — broke apart shortly after its launch, killing everyone on board. It was a day seared in the memories of thousands of Americans who watched live from home and near the launch pad, and now, 37 years later, more debris from the crash has been found — by accident.
On November 10, NASA and The History Channel announced that they had discovered a large piece of the Challenger shuttle off of Florida’s east coast. The 20-foot-long piece of debris was found during the filming of a new History Channel series called The Bermuda Triangle: Into Cursed Waters, set to premiere this month on The History Channel, CNN reports.
“NASA 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,” the space agency said in a news release.
Explorers were searching for World War II artifacts in the Atlantic Ocean for the new History Channel show when they came upon a “more modern object partially covered by sand on the seafloor.” Divers returned to the area a month later and captured “clear footage” of the wreckage.
“They brought evidence of their discovery to retired NASA astronaut Bruce Melnick,” a long-time friend of Mike Barnette, an underwater explorer. He led the crew that found the shuttle artifact. Barnette suggested the debris “could be detritus from the Challenger disaster,” CNN notes.
The team turned the findings over to NASA in August, which recently confirmed that the debris was from the Challenger. This mission killed all seven people on board 73 seconds after takeoff due to a faulty seal that failed, leading to the explosion.
“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,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said in a statement.
“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 HISTORY Channel’s new series The Bermuda Triangle: Into Cursed Waters premiers Tuesday, November 22 at 10/9c.