A part of the space shuttle Challenger was found buried in sand at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean.
The piece has been found years after the tragedy that killed a teacher and six others when the spacecraft exploded in the air. The discovery was made on Thursday.
Michael Ciannilli, a NASA manager, confirmed it was authentic. He described finding the piece as a flood of emotion from when it all happened in 1986, according to 13 WHAM.
The part was found off the coast of Florida. It’s one of the largest pieces found to date since the accident and the first to be discovered since two pieces washed ashore in 1996. Those pieces were from the left wing. The piece was first seen in March by divers for a TV documentary. They were looking for wreckage from a World War II plane.
Wreckage owned by NASA
NASA was able to verify months ago that the piece was indeed from the Challenger from 1986. The explosion happened on Jan. 28, killing everyone on board.
The piece is over 15 by 15 feet and may be bigger because it’s covered in sand. This part is believed to be from the belly of the shuttle.
The piece is still at the bottom of the ocean until NASA decides what the next steps will be. It is the property of the U.S. government and families of all crew members have been notified. To date about 47% of the Challenger has been recovered. Most of the wreckage that has been recovered is buried in abandoned missile silos at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station.
One piece, the left side shuttle panel, is on display at the Kennedy Space Center. The cockpit window frame from Columbia in 2003 is with it. The Challenger did not make it due to eroded O-ring seals in the right booster. Columbia had a slashed left wing from foam insulation breaking off the external fuel take during liftoff.
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