American space agency NASA’s Challenger shuttle was destroyed 37 years ago, in an explosion that killed all seven people onboard. A large piece of its wreckage was found this year by a film crew looking for World War II-era aircraft under the Atlantic Ocean. NASA confirmed on Thursday that the wreckage is indeed that of Challenger, saying its officials viewed the underwater footage off the East coast of Florida.
While searching for the aircraft, the divers discovered a large man-made object covered partially by sand on the seafloor. The team then contacted NASA as a result of object’s resemblance to a shuttle, its modern structure and presence of eight-inch square tiles.
NASA Administrator Bill Nelson, in a press release said, “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, January 28, 1986, still feels like yesterday.”
He also spoke about the seven astronauts who died in the explosion. “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.”
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The spacecraft crashed 73 seconds after lift-off due to a serious malfunction. Unexpectedly chilly temperatures had a negative impact on the O-ring seals’ integrity in the solid rocket booster segment joints, according to a later agency investigation.
As reported by the space agency, by law, all space shuttle pieces are the property of the United States government. For now, it lies on the ocean bed as NASA plans the next step to bring it out.
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