Nearly 37 years after the space shuttle Challenger exploded, a television crew found a remnant of the shuttle during an underwater dive.
The artifact was discovered by a documentary television crew looking for World War II aircraft remains. NASA confirmed this in a press release on Thursday. Divers saw “a large man-made object partially covered with sand on the seafloor,” and the team contacted NASA because the materials looked modern and were close to Florida’s Space Coast.
The crew was filming for an upcoming series that will air on the History Channel. They began diving near the Florida coast in March.
“The importance of this large part of Challenger’s structure was immediately apparent,” Mike Barnette, who led the team that made the discovery, said in a History Channel press release. “We recognized the need to bring this find to the attention of NASA immediately.”
NASA officials later viewed images of the divers and confirmed the discovery was part of the Challenger space shuttle, according to NASA’s press release. The remnant is at least 15 feet by 15 feet, and it could be bigger because some of it is covered in sand. Officials believe it was part of the shuttle’s abdomen.
The Challenger was a space shuttle that fell apart after its launch in January 1986. All seven people on board were killed, including Christa McAuliffe, the first teacher on her way to space.
“While it has been nearly 37 years since seven daring and brave explorers lost their lives aboard the Challenger, this tragedy will forever remain in our nation’s collective memory. For millions of people around the world, including myself, January 28, 1986 still feels like yesterday,” said NASA administrator Bill Nelson.
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NASA officials are still considering what to do with the remnant in an effort to honor the people who died on the shuttle and their families. The fragment is currently still in the ocean.
The History Channel documentary detailing the discovery will premiere Nov. 22. The episode is part of a series about the Bermuda Triangle, although the area where the artifact was found is located northwest of the legendary Atlantic Ocean.
Contributions: Associated Press