New wreckage from the notorious 1986 Challenger space shuttle disaster was discovered for the first time in over 25 years. The discovery came from an unlikely source: a History Channel series set to premiere later this month.
Titled “The Bermuda Triangle: Into Cursed Waters,” the upcoming six-part series follows a team of underwater investigators as they identify wrecks in the western part of the North Atlantic region — where the so-called Bermuda Triangle, known in urban legends as a place where many ships have disappeared, is located. According to The History Channel, during shooting for the series last March, the crew attempted to find the wreckage of a PBM Martin Mariner Rescue Plane that disappeared in 1945, only to discover a 2o-foot segment of a modern aviation structure in the depths of the water.
After a second dive, the team presented their findings to retired astronaut Bruce Melnick, who identified it as possible wreckage from Challenger. Producers on the show presented the findings to NASA, and in August 2022, the Office of Safety and Mission Assurance’s Mike Ciannilli confirmed that it was a remnant from the space shuttle.
“The historic and emotional discovery of this Challenger artifact by our incredible team reinforces The History Channel’s mission to preserve important sites and stories from our national heritage,” History Channel programming head Eli Lehrer said in a statement. “Our goal for creating this series was to give a name to some of the thousands of wreck sites that call the Bermuda Triangle home and in turn share their stories, historical significance and even provide answers as to how they came to be there. While the remarkable discovery of wreckage from Challenger was not part of our diving team’s initial mission exploring the Bermuda Triangle, the find’s historical significance cannot be understated. The Challenger is a vital part of our nation’s history, and we are honored to bring this important finding to light.”
The first fatal accident in NASA history, the Challenger explosion occurred in January 1986 when the shuttle broke apart 73 seconds into the flight and killed all seven crew members. Widely broadcast, the incident caused a significant public outcry, especially given that school teacher Christa McAuliffe was one of the victims of the disaster, and led to the development of new safety provisions for NASA.
“The significance of this large section of Challenger’s structure was readily apparent,” underwater explorer Mike Barnette, who led the team that made the discovery, said in a statement. “We recognized the necessity of bringing this find to the immediate attention of NASA. The site, which is outside of the Bermuda Triangle off the Florida coast, marks the loss of seven brave astronauts–fellow explorers–and the Challenger disaster was a tragic setback for America’s space program. But from this horrific event, important lessons were learned that have ultimately led to remarkable advances in space exploration.”
The expedition, featuring commentary from Ciannilli, will be broadcast as part of “The Bermuda Triangle” when it premieres November 22 on The History Channel. In addition to Barnette, the show also features investigators Wayne Abbot and David O’Keefe, U.S. Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Jason Harris, and wreck diver Jimmy Gadomski. Kirk Wolfinger, Joseph Sousa and Adam Costa executive produce “The Bermuda Triangle” for Lone Wolf Media. Lehrer, Amy Savitsky, and Mike Stiller executive produce for the History Channel.
The History Channel shared footage of the Challenger discovery on Twitter. Watch below.
What they uncover off the coast of Florida, outside of the Triangle, marks the first discovery of wreckage from the 1986 Space Shuttle Challenger in more than 25 years. Don’t miss the premiere of The Bermuda Triangle: Into Cursed Waters on Tuesday, November 22 at 10/9C. pic.twitter.com/LWUoFXxEnK
— HISTORY (@HISTORY) November 10, 2022