TV crew finds piece of doomed space shuttle

A television documentary crew on assignment for the History Channel discovers a piece of Shace Shuttle Challenger, which exploded upon launch in 1986. (Handout photo)
A television documentary crew on assignment for the History Channel discovers a piece of Shace Shuttle Challenger, which exploded upon launch in 1986. (Handout photo)

A television crew working on a documentary about the Bermuda Triangle accidentally stumbled across a tragic piece of history that was not part of their original search.

The crew was on assignment for the History Channel and was commissioned to investigate ship wrecks and missing planes in the Atlantic Ocean when they accidentally discovered a piece of the space shuttle Challenger, which exploded upon launch in 1986.

The shuttle fragment was found far off the eastern coast of Florida during a dive by the television crew, History Channel’s parent company A+E Networks said this week. The crew immediately contacted NASA after noting that the large piece of debris appeared man-made.

“The significance of this large section of Challenger’s structure was readily apparent,” Mike Barnette, the leader of the search team who made the discovery, said in a statement on Thursday. “We recognized the necessity of bringing this find to the immediate attention of NASA.”

A crew from NASA reviewed footage captured by a dive team, and confirmed the 15-square-foot section appeared to come from Challenger. The piece is mostly covered by sand, but NASA officials believe it may have come from the underside of the doomed space shuttle.

The tragedy of the Challenger was widely covered on live television because the flight featured the first civilian — school teacher Christa McAuliffe — as part of a program to renew interest in the space exploration program. The shuttle exploded minutes after takeoff; all seven people on board were killed. The blast was later blamed on the failure of an O-ring rubber seal on the shuttle’s rocket booster system.

More details about the dive and the discovery of the shuttle fragment will be aired on the History Channel’s upcoming program “The Bermuda Triangle: Into Cursed Waters,” which is scheduled to air on Tuesday, November 22 at 10 p.m. Eastern Time.

The History Channel is available to watch without a cable or satellite subscription on several budget-friendly streaming TV service, including Frndly TV, Philo, Sling TV and Vidgo.