Section of destroyed space shuttle Challenger found on ocean floor

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A large section of the destroyed space shuttle Challenger has been found buried in sand at the bottom of the Atlantic, more than three decades after the tragedy that killed a schoolteacher and six others.

Nasa’s Kennedy Space Centre announced the discovery on Thursday.

“Upon first hearing about it, it brings you right back to 1986,” said Michael Ciannilli, a Nasa manager in charge of the remains of both lost shuttles, Challenger and Columbia.

In a Nasa interview, he said it was one of the biggest pieces of Challenger ever found in the decades since the accident.

Challenger explodes
The Nasa space shuttle Challenger explodes on January 28, 1986 (Alamy/PA)

Nasa recently verified through video that the piece was part of the shuttle that broke apart shortly after lift-off on January 28, 1986.

All seven on board were killed, including the first schoolteacher bound for space, Christa McAuliffe.

The remnant is more than 15ft by 15ft and may be bigger – part of it is covered with sand.

Because of the presence of square thermal tiles, it is believed to be from the shuttle’s belly, officials said.

The fragment remains on the ocean floor just off the Florida coast near Cape Canaveral, as Nasa determines the next step. It remains the property of the US government.

Mr Ciannilli said the families of all seven Challenger crew members have been notified.

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