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Section of destroyed space shuttle Challenger found on ocean floor

The shuttle broke apart shortly after lift-off on 28 January 1986, killed seven people on board.

shuttle-challenger-debris-found Underwater explorer and marine biologist Mike Barnette and wreck diver Jimmy Gadomski explore a 20-foot segment of the 1986 Space Shuttle Challenger The History Channel / PA Images The History Channel / PA Images / PA Images

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 today.

“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.

Divers for a TV documentary crew first spotted the piece in March while looking for the wreckage of a Second World War plane.

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

embedded7649004 The Nasa space shuttle Challenger exploding on 28 January 1986 Alamy / PA Images Alamy / PA Images / PA Images

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.

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

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