Divers Accidentally Discover The Largest Piece of the Destroyed Challenger Spacecraft

Sometimes, you can find something surprising at the place you least expected! That’s exactly what happened to a History Channel TV documentary crew when they plunged into deep waters searching for a sunken old aircraft. Instead, they stumbled across a big flat metal object on the seafloor and soon realized that they had discovered something historic!

The Discovery

The divers of the TV documentary crew were searching for a sunken WWII-era aircraft off the coast of Florida. They found a large flat metal piece with square tiles, lying on the seafloor, partially covered by sand. It didn’t take the team long to realize that they had unearthed one of the largest recovered pieces of NASA’s Challenger Space Shuttle. The segment of the destroyed spacecraft measured at least 15/15 feet. Soon the crew contacted NASA, and after examining the remnant, the organization confirmed the discovery.

The Tragedy

Challenger launched for the last time on January 28, 1986, as a part of the Space Shuttle program by NASA. The highlight of the mission was Christa McAuliffe, a New Hampshire-based schoolteacher. She was supposed to be the first American civilian to be sent into space. On that fateful day, classrooms across the country tuned in on live TV to watch the momentous take-off. But the shuttle exploded just 73 seconds after the launch — all seven crew members perished. It was the first fatal accident involving an American spacecraft in flight.

The Cause

Investigations revealed that a sudden cold front the night before the launch brought record-low frigid temperatures, which affected the integrity of the O-ring seals of Challenger. But the project managers had cleared the orbiter shuttle for liftoff anyway. After the explosion, the spacecraft disintegrated above the Atlantic Ocean and finally crashed off the coast of Cape Canaveral in Florida. The U.S. Coast Guard and Navy conducted the largest-ever search and salvage mission, recovering 167 pieces, or 47% of the shuttle. Now a new piece has been found 37 years later.