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Debris from 1986 shuttle disaster found off Florida coast

Shuttle Challenger Debris Found
(AP Photo/Bruce Weaver, File)

(CAPE CANAVERAL, FL)– Filmmakers searching for a downed WWII airplane made a surprising discovery while diving off the coast of central Florida back in March.

A large piece of debris from the 1986 Challenger disaster was found on the ocean floor by a pair of divers working on a History Channel documentary.

“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,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said in a statement. “For millions around the globe, myself included, Jan. 28, 1986, still feels like yesterday.”

The piece of debris measures approximately 15×15 and is covered with the shuttle’s signature black heatshield tiles, indicating it was probably from the underbelly of the Challenger.

The crew was making a documentary about the Bermuda Triangle and immediately notified NASA of their find.

The agency is deciding what to do with the discovery, which is considered government property.

110 tons of Challenger’s remains was recovered in the aftermath of the ill-fated STS-51L mission which ended in an explosion 72 seconds after launch, killing all seven astronauts on board including ‘Teacher in Space’ Christa McAullife.

Cold temperatures at launch were at the root of the accident.

Following an investigation the remains of the shuttle were placed inside an abandoned missile silo at then Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

The last significant debris find from the accident was in 1996 when a piece of Challenger’s left wing washed up on a Brevard County beach.

The families of Challenger’s crew have been informed of the find.