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Debris from Space Shuttle Challenger Discovered Underwater

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(CNN) – Explorers trudged the Atlantic Ocean searching for World War II artifacts lost at sea, but they stumbled on something else – a 20-foot-long piece of debris from the Space Shuttle Challenger, which was destroyed shortly after takeoff in 1986.The History Channel and NASA revealed Thursday that the Challenger segment was discovered off Florida's east coast during the filming of a new series called The Bermuda Triangle: Into Cursed Waters.

The series is set to premiere this month on the History Channel.The Challenger broke apart after its launch on January 28, 1986, killing all seven crew members aboard, including a teacher who was set to become the first civilian in space.

TV viewers, especially students in schools across the US, watched a live broadcast of the blast in horror that morning.“NASA currently is considering what additional actions it may take regarding the artifact that will properly honor the legacy of Challenger’s fallen astronauts and the families who loved them,” the space agency said in a news release.Mike Barnette, an underwater explorer who led the crew that found the shuttle artifact, remembers watching the tragedy on TV in his high school classroom.

He called it “sobering” to realize that his team found a scrap from the spacecraft — the first debris to be discovered since pieces from the shuttle washed ashore in 1996.“I can almost smell the smells of that day,” Barnette told CNN in a phone interview Thursday, referring to the day the Challenger exploded.

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