A piece of the wrecked Space Shuttle Challenger has been discovered on the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean by a History Channel film crew looking for World War II artifacts.
The Challenger exploded after its launch on Jan. 28, 1986, killing all seven crew members.
"The tragedy of that, and remembering watching it as a kid – it's a mix of emotions to literally, literally, touch history," Mike Barnette, 51, said in an interview on Thursday with the New York Times.
"We weren't expecting it because we were under the assumption that all these pieces were recovered by NASA for their investigation."
Barnette, an underwater explorer, led the crew that found the 20-foot-long shuttle artifact off Florida's east coast in March.
He and his team of investigators were looking for a World War II-era rescue plane that mysteriously disappeared in December 1945 in an area outside the Bermuda Triangle, just off Florida's Space Coast where NASA has launched rockets since its inception. A more modern object partially covered by sand on the seafloor sparked their interest.
The crew couldn't tell what it was because the water was so murky, so they returned to the site on May 5, and captured clear footage of the wreckage. They turned their findings over to NASA in August.
"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," NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said in a statement.
"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."
The six-part series "The Bermuda Triangle: Into Cursed Waters" premieres at 10 p.m. ET on Nov. 22 on the History Channel.
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