Space Shuttle Challenger, a fragment found in the ocean

Space Shuttle Challenger, a fragment found in the ocean

Space Shuttle Challenger

From time to time, even today it happens to find some wrecks of ancient ships abandoned in the ocean depths. It happened, for example, at the beginning of this year, when a group of explorers found the wreck of the Endurance, the ship protagonist of the great epic of Ernest Shackleton, sunk in the Weddell Sea in 1915 during the unfortunate but heroic expedition. of exploration of the Antarctic continent. 28 men left for the expedition, none died despite the months spent adrift on the ice, between despair, hunger and frost. Responsible for the discovery was the Endurance22 expedition, specially organized to search for the wreck. However, the story that emerged from the ocean in these days is quite different, because in this case the discovery was absolutely random and unexpected, the dead were there, and the ship was headed for the stars.

The Find

A TV crew led by marine biologist Mike Barnette was filming underwater for a program called "The Bermuda Triangle: Into Cursed Waters", due out on the History Channel on November 22nd. The goal was to shoot some wrecks in the area of ​​the famous Bermuda Triangle, that area off the coast of Florida that over time has taken on a legendary flavor filled with ufology and paranormal due to some disappearances of ships and airplanes. Specifically, the crew was looking for a WWII-era wreck just northwest of the Triangle when they found a very special artifact on the ocean floor, a fragment of the Space Shuttle Challenger from the 1986 disaster.

Credits: History Channel

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The Challenger disaster

On January 28 of that year, the Space Shuttle Challenger took off from Cape Canaveral, Florida. It was his 10th flight, the first having occurred in April 1983. 1986 was also the year of Halley's Comet, and indeed the target of the crew of seven astronauts and astronauts of the Sts-51-L mission commanded by Francis "Dick" Scobee and piloted by Michael J. Smith, among the main objectives was the study of the comet once in orbit. The Challenger had spent 62 days in space, 1000 orbits the Earth, after taking over from the previous Space Shuttle Columbia. But on that tenth flight something went wrong. A technical failure, a malfunctioning gasket in the lower segment of one of the solid propellant rockets, led to the explosion of the vehicle 73 seconds after launch. All seven crew members perished in the accident. The fragments of the rocket and the shuttle were scattered here and there, and occasionally found and exhibited in memory of that tragedy, like the fuselage showing the American flag displayed at the Kennedy Space Center.

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That disaster had a major impact on the policies of the US space agency, starting with the shutdown of the Shuttle program for the next 32 months. Safety procedures were revised, new standards imposed to reduce the risks of similar accidents. But in fact, along with the Columbia disaster that occurred later in 2003, the Challenger disaster was one of the reasons that led to the closure of the program. The Shuttles were too dangerous.

Credits: Loungeflyz / WikiMedia Commons

What NASA will do

Receiving the images from Barnette's team, NASA was able to quickly confirm the suspicions: one of the largest fragments of the Challenger found at least in the last quarter of a century. The discovery will still be part of the documentary, but the artifact found is, by US law, the property of NASA. Therefore, the space agency is evaluating, together with the victims' families, what to do toa> recover it and use it as a memorial to the tragedy. "The Challenger and its crew still live in the hearts and memories of NASA and the nation," Kennedy Space Center Director Janet Petro said in the NASA statement. “Today, as we are once again turning our eyes to the Moon and Mars, we see that the same love of exploration that drove the Challenger crew is still inspiring Generation Artemis astronauts, calling them to build on that same foundation. of knowledge and discovery, for the benefit of all humanity. "

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