Section of destroyed shuttle Challenger found on ocean floor

Nov 10, 2022, 9:42 AM | Updated: 3:48 pm
FILE - The space shuttle Challenger is destroyed shortly after lifting off from Kennedy Space Cente...

FILE - The space shuttle Challenger is destroyed shortly after lifting off from Kennedy Space Center, Fla., Tuesday, Jan. 28, 1986. All seven crew members died in the explosion, which was blamed on faulty o-rings in the shuttle's booster rockets. On Thursday, Nov. 10, 2022, NASA announced that a large section of the destroyed spacecraft has been found buried in sand at the bottom of the Atlantic, more than three decades after the tragedy that killed a schoolteacher and six others. (AP Photo/Bruce Weaver, File)

(AP Photo/Bruce Weaver, File)

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — A large section of the destroyed space shuttle Challenger has been found buried in sand at the bottom of the Atlantic, more than three decades after the tragedy that killed a schoolteacher and six others.

NASA’s Kennedy Space Center announced the discovery Thursday.

“Of course, the emotions come back, right?” said Michael Ciannilli, a NASA manager who confirmed the remnant’s authenticity. When he saw the underwater video footage, “My heart skipped a beat, I must say, and it brought me right back to 1986 … and what we all went through as a nation.”

It’s one of the biggest pieces of Challenger found in the decades since the acciden t, according to Ciannilli, and the first remnant to be discovered since two fragments from the left wing washed ashore in 1996.

Divers for a TV documentary first spotted the piece in March while looking for wreckage of a World War II plane. NASA verified through video a few months ago that the piece was part of the shuttle that broke apart shortly after liftoff on Jan. 28, 1986. All seven on board were killed, including the first schoolteacher bound for space, Christa McAuliffe.

The underwater video provided “pretty clear and convincing evidence,” said Ciannilli.

The piece is more than 15 feet by 15 feet (4.5 meters by 4.5 meters); it’s likely bigger because part of it is covered with sand. Because there are square thermal tiles on the piece, it’s believed to be from the shuttle’s belly, Ciannilli said.

The fragment remains on the ocean floor just off the Florida coast near Cape Canaveral as NASA determines the next step. It remains the property of the U.S. government. The families of all seven Challenger crew members have been notified.

“We want to make sure whatever we do, we do the right thing for the legacy of the crew,” Ciannilli said.

Roughly 118 tons (107 metric tons) of Challenger debris have been recovered since the accident. That represents about 47% of the entire vehicle, including parts of the two solid-fuel boosters and external fuel tank.

Most of the recovered wreckage remains buried in abandoned missile silos at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station. The exception is a left side shuttle panel on display at Kennedy Space Center’s visitor complex, alongside the charred cockpit window frame from shuttle Columbia, which broke apart over Texas during reentry in 2003, killing seven astronauts.

Far less has been recovered of Columbia — 42 tons (38 metric tons) representing 38% of the shuttle. The Columbia remains are stored in converted offices inside Kennedy’s massive hangar.

Launched on an exceptionally cold morning, Challenger was brought down by eroded O-ring seals in the right booster. Columbia ended up with a slashed left wing, the result of foam insulation breaking off the external fuel tank at liftoff. Mismanagement was also blamed..

A History Channel documentary detailing the latest Challenger discovery airs Nov. 22.

___

The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


              FILE - The space shuttle Challenger is destroyed shortly after lifting off from Kennedy Space Center, Fla., Tuesday, Jan. 28, 1986. All seven crew members died in the explosion, which was blamed on faulty o-rings in the shuttle's booster rockets. On Thursday, Nov. 10, 2022, NASA announced that a large section of the destroyed spacecraft has been found buried in sand at the bottom of the Atlantic, more than three decades after the tragedy that killed a schoolteacher and six others. (AP Photo/Bruce Weaver, File)
            
              FILE - The space shuttle Challenger hangs suspended inside the Vehicle Assembly Building, April 10, 1985, as preparations are made to mate it with the booster rockets and external tank. On Thursday, Nov. 10, 2022, NASA announced that a large section of the destroyed spacecraft has been found buried in sand at the bottom of the Atlantic, more than three decades after the tragedy that killed a schoolteacher and six others. (AP Photo/Phil Sandlin, File)
            
              In this photo provided by the HISTORY® Channel, underwater explorer and marine biologist Mike Barnette and wreck diver Jimmy Gadomski explore a 20-foot segment of the 1986 Space Shuttle Challenger that the team discovered in the waters off the coast of Florida during the filming of The HISTORY® Channel’s new series, “The Bermuda Triangle: Into Cursed Waters,” premiering Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2022. (The HISTORY® Channel via AP)
            
              FILE - The space shuttle Challenger is destroyed shortly after lifting off from Kennedy Space Center, Fla., Tuesday, Jan. 28, 1986. All seven crew members died in the explosion, which was blamed on faulty o-rings in the shuttle's booster rockets. On Thursday, Nov. 10, 2022, NASA announced that a large section of the destroyed spacecraft has been found buried in sand at the bottom of the Atlantic, more than three decades after the tragedy that killed a schoolteacher and six others. (AP Photo/Bruce Weaver, File)
            
              FILE - The space shuttle Challenger hangs suspended inside the Vehicle Assembly Building, April 10, 1985, as preparations are made to mate it with the booster rockets and external tank. On Thursday, Nov. 10, 2022, NASA announced that a large section of the destroyed spacecraft has been found buried in sand at the bottom of the Atlantic, more than three decades after the tragedy that killed a schoolteacher and six others. (AP Photo/Phil Sandlin, File)
            
              In this photo provided by the HISTORY® Channel, underwater explorer and marine biologist Mike Barnette and wreck diver Jimmy Gadomski explore a 20-foot segment of the 1986 Space Shuttle Challenger that the team discovered in the waters off the coast of Florida during the filming of The HISTORY® Channel’s new series, “The Bermuda Triangle: Into Cursed Waters,” premiering Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2022. (The HISTORY® Channel via AP)
            
              FILE - The space shuttle Challenger is destroyed shortly after lifting off from Kennedy Space Center, Fla., Tuesday, Jan. 28, 1986. All seven crew members died in the explosion, which was blamed on faulty o-rings in the shuttle's booster rockets. On Thursday, Nov. 10, 2022, NASA announced that a large section of the destroyed spacecraft has been found buried in sand at the bottom of the Atlantic, more than three decades after the tragedy that killed a schoolteacher and six others. (AP Photo/Bruce Weaver, File)
            
              FILE - The space shuttle Challenger hangs suspended inside the Vehicle Assembly Building, April 10, 1985, as preparations are made to mate it with the booster rockets and external tank. On Thursday, Nov. 10, 2022, NASA announced that a large section of the destroyed spacecraft has been found buried in sand at the bottom of the Atlantic, more than three decades after the tragedy that killed a schoolteacher and six others. (AP Photo/Phil Sandlin, File)
            
              In this photo provided by the HISTORY® Channel, underwater explorer and marine biologist Mike Barnette and wreck diver Jimmy Gadomski explore a 20-foot segment of the 1986 Space Shuttle Challenger that the team discovered in the waters off the coast of Florida during the filming of The HISTORY® Channel’s new series, “The Bermuda Triangle: Into Cursed Waters,” premiering Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2022. (The HISTORY® Channel via AP)
            
              FILE - The space shuttle Challenger is destroyed shortly after lifting off from Kennedy Space Center, Fla., Tuesday, Jan. 28, 1986. All seven crew members died in the explosion, which was blamed on faulty o-rings in the shuttle's booster rockets. On Thursday, Nov. 10, 2022, NASA announced that a large section of the destroyed spacecraft has been found buried in sand at the bottom of the Atlantic, more than three decades after the tragedy that killed a schoolteacher and six others. (AP Photo/Bruce Weaver, File)
            
              FILE - The space shuttle Challenger hangs suspended inside the Vehicle Assembly Building, April 10, 1985, as preparations are made to mate it with the booster rockets and external tank. On Thursday, Nov. 10, 2022, NASA announced that a large section of the destroyed spacecraft has been found buried in sand at the bottom of the Atlantic, more than three decades after the tragedy that killed a schoolteacher and six others. (AP Photo/Phil Sandlin, File)
            
              In this photo provided by the HISTORY® Channel, underwater explorer and marine biologist Mike Barnette and wreck diver Jimmy Gadomski explore a 20-foot segment of the 1986 Space Shuttle Challenger that the team discovered in the waters off the coast of Florida during the filming of The HISTORY® Channel’s new series, “The Bermuda Triangle: Into Cursed Waters,” premiering Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2022. (The HISTORY® Channel via AP)
            
              In this photo provided by the HISTORY® Channel, underwater explorer and marine biologist Mike Barnette and wreck diver Jimmy Gadomski explore a 20-foot segment of the 1986 Space Shuttle Challenger that the team discovered in the waters off the coast of Florida during the filming of The HISTORY® Channel’s new series, “The Bermuda Triangle: Into Cursed Waters,” premiering Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2022. (The HISTORY® Channel via AP)

AP

John Duarte, a Republican candidate in California's 13th Congressional District, arrives at the Cap...
Associated Press

GOP’s Duarte takes California Central Valley US House seat

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Republican John Duarte defeated Democrat Adam Gray on Friday in a new California U.S. House district in the Central Valley farm belt that produced the closest congressional contest in the state this year. With virtually all of the ballots counted, Duarte has just over 50% of the vote. Gray conceded in […]
21 hours ago
Associated Press

Family seeks answers after police kill man on his own porch

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — The family of an Austin, Texas, man is seeking answers after he was fatally shot by police last month on his front porch following a late-night emergency call by a neighbor. Video and audio released Thursday show that Austin police officers arrived Nov. 15, yelled “drop your gun,” then fired at […]
21 hours ago
FILE - Flowers and candles are placed around crosses on May 28, 2022, at a memorial outside Robb El...
Associated Press

Uvalde shooting victims seek $27B, class action in lawsuit

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Victims of the Uvalde school shooting that left 21 people dead have filed a lawsuit against local and state police, the city and other school and law enforcement officials seeking $27 billion due to delays in confronting the attacker, court documents show. The lawsuit, which was filed in federal court in […]
21 hours ago
The Democratic National Committee Rules and Bylaws Committee discuss proposed changes to the primar...
Associated Press

Dems move to make South Carolina, not Iowa, 1st voting state

WASHINGTON (AP) — Democrats voted Friday to remove Iowa as the leadoff state on the presidential nominating calendar and replace it with South Carolina starting in 2024, a dramatic shakeup championed by President Joe Biden to better reflect the party’s deeply diverse electorate. The Democratic National Committee’s rule-making arm made the move to strip Iowa […]
21 hours ago
Associated Press

GOP’s Joe Kent contests results of Washington state race

VANCOUVER, Wash. (AP) — Republican Joe Kent’s campaign said Friday it intends to request a machine ballot recount of the counties within southwest Washington state’s 3rd Congressional District. “We believe the election workers did their best to ensure a fair election and count the ballots accurately,” his campaign said in a statement. “But given the […]
21 hours ago
FILE - In this May 24, 2004 file photo, a Mount Graham red squirrel darts through trees on Mount Gr...
Associated Press

Endangered red squirrel found in Arizona sees increase in population

The latest survey shows another increase in the population of the endangered Mount Graham red squirrel in the Pinaleno Mountains of Arizona.
21 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...
Quantum Fiber

Stream 4K and more with powerful, high-speed fiber internet

Picking which streaming services to subscribe to are difficult choices, and there is no room for internet that cannot handle increased demands.
...
Children’s Cancer Network

Children’s Cancer Network celebrates cancer-fighting superheroes, raises funds during September’s Childhood Cancer Awareness Month

Jace Hyduchak was like most other kids in his kindergarten class: He loved to play basketball, dress up like his favorite superheroes and jump as high as his pint-sized body would take him on his backyard trampoline.
...
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Here are 4 signs the HVAC unit needs to be replaced

Pool renovations and kitchen upgrades may seem enticing, but at the forefront of these investments arguably should be what residents use the most. In a state where summertime is sweltering, access to a functioning HVAC unit can be critical.
Section of destroyed shuttle Challenger found on ocean floor