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Piece of Challenger rocket ship discovered on ocean floor nearly 37 years after disaster

Piece of Challenger rocket ship discovered on ocean floor nearly 37 years after disaster

The team of divers working on a documentary made the shocking find while looking for a downed WWII-era plane.

A chunk of NASA's doomed Challenger rocket has been found on the seafloor by a team of divers searching for the remains of a World War II-era aircraft off the coast of Florida.

The discovery comes nearly 37 years after the Challenger rocket exploded 73 seconds into its flight in front of the eyes of stunned NASA engineers and millions watching around the world.

All seven on board were killed when the spaceship disintegrated at 46,000 feet above the Atlantic Ocean.

Astronauts Francis R. Scobee, Michael J. Smith, Ronald E. McNair, Ellison S. Onizuka, Judith A. Resnik, Gregory B. Jarvis and teacher S. Christa McAuliffe were the ones who perished.

But now a piece of the vessel from the failed flight has been discovered by a History Channel documentary diving crew.

The crew gave footage of the large man-made object to the US space agency due to the location being close to Florida's Space Coast.

NASA has now confirmed the debris is a segment of the heat shield from the failed rocket, making the find the 'the first discovery of wreckage' from the 1986 disaster 'in more than 25 years'.

Screenshot from footage of the divers as they made their discovery.
The History Channel.

The History Channel shared their footage on social media to make their incredible find public.

NASA Administrator Bill Nelson confirmed that the wreckage did belong to the Challenger.

He said that for both himself and for millions of others, the events of28 January 1986 still feel like only yesterday.

"While it has been nearly 37 years since seven daring and brave explorers lost their lives aboard the Challenger, this tragedy will forever be seared in the collective memory of our country," he said.

"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."

Marine biologist Mike Barnette, the man who led the History Channel team that made the discovery of the rocket debris, said his team brought it to the 'immediate attention of NASA'.

The astronauts who were killed in 1986 during a training exercise in 1985.
NASA/Bill Bowers/UPI.

"The significance of this large section of Challenger's structure was readily apparent," he said in a statement to People.

"The site, which is outside of the Bermuda Triangle off the Florida coast, marks the loss of seven brave astronauts - fellow explorers - and the Challenger disaster was a tragic setback for America's space program."

He added: "But from this horrific event, important lessons were learned that have ultimately led to remarkable advances in space exploration."

Featured Image Credit: The History Channel. agefotostock / Alamy Stock Photo.

Topics: Space, NASA, Science, US News