History Channel divers find Space Shuttle Challenger wreckage off Florida coast

Spacecraft broke apart 73 seconds into its flight in 1986, resulting in seven crew members aboard being killed.

Updated: November 11, 2022 - 10:02am

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While searching for World War II-era ocean wrecks for a History Channel documentary, divers found a missing piece of NASA's Challenger, the ill-fated Space Shuttle which exploded shortly after liftoff in 1986. 

NASA in a statement verified the source of the wreckage as belonging to the Challenger.

"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," NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said in the statement. "For millions around the globe, myself included, Jan. 28, 1986, still feels like yesterday."

"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," Nelson added. "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."

On Jan. 28, 1986, the Space Shuttle Challenger broke apart 73 seconds into its flight, resulting in seven crew members aboard being killed. The disaster was widely viewed on live television.

Following this week's news, NASA said it was planning to take action to figure out "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."

"Challenger and her crew live on in the hearts and memories of both NASA and the nation," Kennedy Space Center Director Janet Petro said in the statement. "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."