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Debris from Challenger Shuttle Disaster Found off Florida Coast

Space shuttle Challenger
Debris from Challenger Shuttle Disaster Found off Florida Coast. Credit: Nasa

Debris from the 1986 Challenger shuttle disaster has been recovered off the coast of Florida, according to Nasa.

The manned rocket that killed all seven onboard exploded after exploding 73 seconds after its launch was discovered by a TV documentary crew seeking the wreckage of a World War II-era aircraft along the east coast of Florida, according to Thursday’s announcement by Nasa.

Divers from the crew found a man-made element that was covered in sand and reached out on the space agency, given that the location was near Florida’s “space coast” where the mission was launched.

NASA Administrator Bill Nelson 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, Jan. 28, 1986, still feels like yesterday.”

Disaster attributed to freezing temperatures

Although shuttle employees their shared concerns the day prior to takeoff, Nasa still gave it the green light. A later investigation found that there was a major malfunction due to freezing temperatures which impacted the strength of the machinery.

The agency also clarified that the problem was with shuttle’s O-ring seals. O-ring seals are located in the solid rocket booster segment joints and are used to keep fluids from leaking and components sealed. These malfunctioned somehow during the Challenger’s liftoff.

The people onboard the Challenger were part of Nasa’s ambitions for the program. One was a teacher who planned to conduct a class for her students from orbit, an idea that so charmed the public that it was named “the teacher flight” during the buildup to the launch.

The 37-year-old teacher Christa McAuliffe beat 11,000 applicants to secure her spot and in doing so, was the first civilian to head to space. The impact of that tragedy still resonates years later and was portrayed in the 2020 Netflix documentary Challenger: The Final Flight.

According to the Smithsonian’s report in 2016, all seven people on onboard the 1986 launch died during take-off, a tragedy that quickly dampened Nasa’s ambition of opening space travel to  everyone.

Since then only people such as billionaires Elon Musk, Jeff Besos and Richard Branson have had the means to travel to space.

Space shuttle Challenger Crew
Space shuttle Challenger Crew Credit: Nasa

Discovery of debris revives the program that changed Nasa

The Challenger, whose debris was recently discovered, was the Nasa’s 25th shuttle mission and the second to make it to space. Before it exploded during the launch, t had already completed nine journeys between 1983 and 1986 .

It was also the one that carried the first American and African American into space. Consequently, the shuttle is remembered today for its legacy as the one that altered “Nasa’s space program forever”.

The Director of Kennedy Space Center Janet Petro said, “Challenger and her crew live on in the hearts and memories of both NASA and the nation.”

She furthermore added that “Today, as we turn our sights again toward the Moon and Mars, we see that the same love of exploration that drove the Challenger crew is still inspiring the astronauts of today’s Artemis Generation, calling them to build on the legacy of knowledge and discovery for the benefit of all humanity.”

Bill Nelson said, “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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