NASA leaders confirm discovery of artifact from space shuttle Challenger

Leaders at NASA confirmed Thursday morning that a discovery of an artifact from the space shuttle Challenger was found during an underwater dive off the east coast of Florida.


According to NASA, a documentary team with History Channel TV was trying to get the wreckage of a World War II-era aircraft when they found the Challenger artifact.

NASA said that the documentary crew was filming an episode for a show about the Bermuda Triangle. Their dive team was searching northwest outside of the infamous area when the Challenger artifact was found on the seafloor, partially covered by sand.

“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,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson. “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.”

According to NASA, a major malfunction occurred 73 seconds after liftoff on Jan. 28, 1986. The malfunction resulted in the loss of the Challenger itself and the seven astronauts aboard it — Francis R. “Dick” Scobee, Michael J. Smith, Ronald McNair, Ellison S. Onizuka, Judith A. Resnik, Gregory B. Jarvis and S. Christa McAuliffe.

NASA investigated the malfunction and found that unexpectedly cold temperatures “affected the integrity of O-ring seals in the solid rocket booster segment joints.”

“Challenger and her crew live on in the hearts and memories of both NASA and the nation,” said Kennedy Space Center Director Janet Petro. “Today, as we turn our sights again toward the Moon and Mars, we see that the same love of exploration that drove the Challenger crew is still inspiring the astronauts of today’s Artemis Generation, calling them to build on the legacy of knowledge and discovery for the benefit of all humanity.”

According to NASA, the History Channel documentary about the discovery of the Challenger artifact is expected to air on Nov. 22 in part with their episode on the Bermuda Triangle, even though the artifact was located outside of the presumed area.

NASA said they are considering what further actions to take regarding the Challenger artifact, in hopes of honoring the fallen astronauts and their families.

If members of the public have seen or encountered any space shuttle artifacts, contact NASA at ksc-public-inquiries@mail.nasa.gov and arrange to get them the items. All space shuttle artifacts are the property of the United States government, by law.

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