36 years after the Challenger space shuttle disaster, a stunning discovery has been made.
According to NASA officials, a 20-foot segment of the shuttle was discovered and recovered by divers off Florida’s east coast.
The dive team was looking for wreckage of a World War II-era aircraft for a History Channel documentary about the Bermuda Triangle when they noticed a large human-made object partially covered by sand on the seafloor, according to NASA.
The documentary team contacted NASA because of the item’s proximity to the Florida Space Coast, its modern construction, and the presence of 8-inch square tiles. NASA wanted to ensure that the surviving family members of the Challenger crew were notified first.
While the documentary is about the Bermuda Triangle, the artifact was discovered far northwest of that location.
Seven astronauts were killed when the Challenger space shuttle exploded shortly after launch on January 28, 1986. It disintegrated over the Atlantic, making recovery difficult.
Christa McAuliffe, a New Hampshire high school teacher who had been chosen by NASA to be the first teacher in space, was among those on board. She was going to be a payload specialist on the crew. Payload specialist Gregory Jarvis, mission specialist Judith A. Resnik, mission commander Francis R. (Dick) Scobee, mission specialist Ronald E. McNair, pilot Mike J. Smith, and mission specialist Ellison S. Onizuka were the other six crew members.
Just before noon, the shuttle lifted off from the Kennedy Space Center near Cape Canaveral, Florida. Americans were watching from the ground and on televisions across the country. Many of them were schoolchildren who were particularly interested in the launch due to McAuliffe.
According to NASA, a booster engine failed shortly after launch. The space shuttle exploded in midair, breaking apart, only 73 seconds into the flight.
It has been debated whether all seven astronauts died in the explosion or whether some of them survived until they fell to the ground. It was the first time in NASA history that an astronaut died during a flight.
According to NASA, by law, space shuttle artifacts remain the property of the United States government, so anyone who believes they have discovered an artifact should always contact NASA for information on how to return it.
What comes next, according to NASA, is “carefully considering additional actions to take that will properly honor the legacy of the Challenger, the crew members who were lost, and the families who loved them.”
“The Challenger and her crew live on in the hearts and minds of NASA and the American people. NASA is committed to using the hard lessons of the past to improve the safety of future space exploration “NASA went on.
President Ronald Reagan delivered an address to the American people on the night of the disaster. He reflected on the country’s space exploration after expressing condolences to the families of those killed.
“We’ve grown accustomed to the concept of space, and it’s easy to forget that we’ve only just begun. We’re still trailblazers. They were pioneers, the members of the Challenger crew “He stated.
He continued to speak to the onlookers, telling them that tragedy is sometimes part of the process of broadening our horizons.
“The future is not for the faint of heart. It is for the brave “He stated. “The Challenger crew was pulling us into the future, and we’ll continue to follow them.”
On Jan. 28, NASA observes a Day of Remembrance for more than one somber anniversary. It also honors those who died in the Apollo 1 and Columbia disasters. The Apollo 1 fire killed three people on January 27, 1967, while the Columbia disaster killed seven people on February 1, 2003.
Pieces of the Columbia accident were scattered across several states. The Columbia Accident Investigation Board pieced it back together in a hangar at the Kennedy Space Center.
The 28th anniversary of the Challenger disaster and the 1967 Apollo I disaster hit Houston and the Johnson Space Center especially hard.
“Thousands of people in Friendswood were devoted to the Apollo and Space Shuttle programs,” Mayor Mike Foreman said in a statement. “They ‘dreamed big,’ devoting their careers and hearts to aiding our nation’s exploration of space. I extend my condolences to all of the astronauts’ families, NASA employees, and everyone affected by these tragedies on behalf of a grateful city. We will never forget your sacrifice and dedication.”