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Author Topic:   Recovered space shuttle Challenger debris
Robert Pearlman
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Posts: 29337
From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 08-18-2009 08:20 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
WOKV in Jacksonville, FL reports:
Jim Tull was on his boat when he found a large chunk of metal, which looks like it could be from the nose of the doomed space shuttle, Challenger. A NASA spokesman said keeping parts of a shuttle is illegal, but Tull says he's waiting for a letter back from them, and is hoping to work with the space agency. Tull said he wants to display the piece all over town, and use it as a teaching tool.
All debris from Challenger (and Columbia) remains U.S. government property.

WJXT offers more details and imagery of the supposed part from Challenger found by Jim Tull of Jim's Automotive in Jacksonville:

"NASA's waiting to send me a letter back," Tull said. "They said, 'Hang on,' after I sent them some pictures. And they said, 'You can possibly keep it.' Maybe the one that blew up over Texas, every speck of that they need for investigation. This one here, maybe let me keep it. Go ahead and teach with it."

Tull said if NASA gives him the OK to keep it, the part will make it out of the garage, and he hopes all over town.

"I'll take some to the Coast Guard, take to the Captain's Club, put on display and talk about it," Tull said.

Tull also says he saw similar pieces at a museum in the Bahamas.


Video stills: WJXT/news4jax.com

More images below. For our earlier coverage of Challenger debris, see: Note to collectors: Challenger off limits.

MrSpace86
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Posts: 1402
From: Gardner, KS, USA
Registered: Feb 2003

posted 08-18-2009 08:40 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for MrSpace86   Click Here to Email MrSpace86     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I think that is kind of morbid to want to display the piece all over town. I think he should ask not only NASA, but also the family members of the crew BEFORE displaying it. I am baffled he refuses to return it until he receives an official letter. Some people...

I have always been for the display of Columbia and Challenger pieces but only if it were done in a tasteful and educational way.

Robert Pearlman
Editor

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From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 08-18-2009 08:53 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Indeed, the question of displaying and ownership are two separate issues. I am strongly in favor of the earlier and just as strongly oppose the latter.

jimsz
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posted 08-18-2009 10:22 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for jimsz     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I wonder if he would willingly collect and wish to display the wreckage from an auto accident in which a neighbor was killed?

There is plenty of video that is able to be used for a teaching tool.

Robert Pearlman
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From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 08-18-2009 11:31 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
If Mr. Hull's intentions are altruistic, i.e. he wants to use the debris to educate, then I have no reason to fault him there.

That said, even the noblest of ideas are not always possible.

MrSpace86
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From: Gardner, KS, USA
Registered: Feb 2003

posted 08-18-2009 11:52 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for MrSpace86   Click Here to Email MrSpace86     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I am surprised no one ever recovered as much debris as possible. I mean, I am sure there are still large amounts of debris just corroding away at the bottom of the ocean that eventually break apart and float to the beach. The problem would be mostly solved if an effort was made to recover whatever is left.

That being said, I can't imagine how many fragments of Challenger and Columbia have turned up that a) people keep and don't say anything about or b) people see and discard.

I am also surprised no federal authorities have knocked on this man's door.

Robert Pearlman
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From: Houston, TX
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posted 08-18-2009 02:18 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
More images of the part from WJXT:


Video stills: WJXT/news4jax.com

Max Q
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From: Whyalla South Australia
Registered: Mar 2007

posted 08-18-2009 10:22 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Max Q   Click Here to Email Max Q     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Okay, so I don't understand the issue here. Two orbiters where lost in catastrophic failures, very sad I agree. But lessons have been learned and workarounds put in place. As the causes of both failures have been worked out, what's the big deal about returning debris?

Robert Pearlman
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From: Houston, TX
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posted 08-18-2009 10:32 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
NASA never relinquished ownership of the orbiters, and therefore their debris remains government property. Anyone found retaining debris is in violation of Title 18, Section 641 of the United States Code, or plainly put, theft of government property, for which there is no statute of limitations.

The debris recovered from Columbia continues to be studied by researchers, and therefore NASA has an interest to continue to catalog and archive the material. Though the same is not (currently) the case for Challenger, it is not within NASA's or the families' interest to see pieces of OV-099 being traded and/or sold.

JPSastro
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From: Tucson, Arizona
Registered: Jan 2009

posted 08-18-2009 11:09 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for JPSastro   Click Here to Email JPSastro     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Here is my issue with this...
Tull also says he saw similar pieces at a museum in the Bahamas.
How did this happened? All these years and this museum has alleged similar pieces on display? And nobody noticed? Nobody said anything? NASA and the government who have no issue with doing what it needs to to recover such items and they were clueless to it's existence? Something doesn't make sense. I'll have to believe a lot of tourists have seen this alleged debris. Huh.

Max Q
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From: Whyalla South Australia
Registered: Mar 2007

posted 08-19-2009 12:14 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Max Q   Click Here to Email Max Q     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
But do the U.S. laws cover the Bahamas? I understand that somebody must have smuggled the debris out of the States but once it's out of the country can they get it back? I will concede that its not much of a museum that would put items like this on display knowing the importance of the said items.

Robert Pearlman
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From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 08-19-2009 12:27 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
If the debris in question is indeed from Challenger, then it wasn't smuggled out of the United States. It was washed ashore after landing in the ocean in the aftermath of the accident.

The Outer Space Treaty ("Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies"), which forms the basis for international space law, includes a provision that nations retain ownership of their spacecraft regardless of where it lands on Earth.

A State Party to the Treaty on whose registry an object launched into outer space is carried shall retain jurisdiction and control over such object, and over any personnel thereof, while in outer space or on a celestial body. Ownership of objects launched into outer space, including objects landed or constructed on a celestial body, and of their component parts, is not affected by their presence in outer space or on a celestial body or by their return to the Earth. Such objects or component parts found beyond the limits of the State Party to the Treaty on whose registry they are carried shall be returned to that State Party, which shall, upon request, furnish identifying data prior to their return.
As for the museum, there is very little known from what Mr. Hull said, which was only that there were other similar pieces to the one he found. Maybe those pieces are from space shuttles but are not wreckage from the accident, or maybe he was mistaken that they are from an orbiter altogether. More details are needed.

GACspaceguy
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From: Guyton, GA
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posted 08-19-2009 05:32 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for GACspaceguy   Click Here to Email GACspaceguy     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I will be very surprised that this turns out to be part of the Challenger. I have a couple of reasons for this opinion. One, after 23+ years in the salt water of the ocean there is a lack of significant corrosion. The material specifically that gives me that clue is the picture of the Aluminum Honeycomb core that is exposed, it shows clean. Also, the bolt shown would be heavily corroded after that length of time rather than the surface corrosion shown. I have seen a lot of corroded structure in my day and these pieces look very clean. Second there is a lack any “sea growth” it may have been cleaned off but the remaining material should be significantly discolored. If this is confirmed as Challenger material I suggest it has not been in the ocean since the disaster. Just one man’s opinion.

robsouth
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From: West Midlands, UK
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posted 08-19-2009 02:27 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for robsouth     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I would not have a problem with NASA displaying Apollo 1, Challenger or Columbia items but I oppose anyone outside of NASA doing it.

That part of Challenger is not the finders, it does not belong to him and he should return it or be made to return it.

Max Q
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From: Whyalla South Australia
Registered: Mar 2007

posted 08-19-2009 11:30 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Max Q   Click Here to Email Max Q     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by robsouth:
That part of Challenger is not the finders, it does not belong to him and he should return it or be made to return it.
I would have thought NASA should pick it up.

328KF
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posted 08-20-2009 09:09 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for 328KF   Click Here to Email 328KF     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The debris shown certainly appears to be aircraft structure of some sort. I agree with GACspaceguy that the honeycomb material looks awfully new and uncorroded. The rest of the metal looks like alot of structural parts and fasteners I have seen over the years on large aircraft.

However, the white "paint" seems a bit strange...most aircraft leave the frame with that green zinc-chromate primer, except for some floor beams and interior parts. I recall space shuttle assembly photos showing the green primer color, not white.

The "owner" does not clearly state where or how he found it while in his boat. It looks far too heavy to have been floating on the surface, so was it washed up in some shallow area? In the Bahamas or somewhere else?

A little speculation now...I don't know what coating Airbus uses on its aircraft, but if this was recovered recently and in such good shape, could it be that it more likey came from the ill-fated Air France flight? I have no idea if the ocean could carry a chunk like that all the way to the coastal waters of the U.S., but I'd be more inclined to believe this than the story of it surviving in the ocean for a quarter century in such good shape.

DoRon
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posted 08-20-2009 10:07 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for DoRon   Click Here to Email DoRon     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
On page 269 of "Air and Space: The National Air and Space Museum Story of Flight" it has a photograph of a U.S. Flag and crew patch that flew aboard STS-51L. It states that the flag and crew patch are part of the STS-51L Challenger memorial on display in Space Hall. Prior to seeing that photo, I was under the impression that there were no recovered 51L items that were kept outside of the missile silo.

I think wreckage and recovered items should be tastefully displayed for the public to learn about the history of spaceflight. I would also like to see some displays at NASA centers and contractors locations to remind the workers of the ramifications of mistakes.

Robert Pearlman
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From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 08-20-2009 10:13 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by DoRon:
Prior to seeing that photo, I was under the impression that there were no recovered 51L items that were kept outside of the missile silo.
A photo of that display and other similar recovered and displayed flags, as well as a discussion about whether more should be exhibited can be found under the topic: Touching the tragedy: displaying Apollo 1, Challenger and Columbia.

GACspaceguy
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From: Guyton, GA
Registered: Jan 2006

posted 08-21-2009 05:20 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for GACspaceguy   Click Here to Email GACspaceguy     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by 328KF:
I don't know what coating Airbus uses on its aircraft, but if this was recovered recently and in such good shape, could it be that it more likey came from the ill-fated Air France flight?
I had this thought as well, could this be the Airbus material? One of the latest procedures for corrosion protection is to over coat the area with white epoxy top coat. Also, I did not suggest this earlier as I could not see how the material that was not attached to the honeycomb could be anywhere but on the floor of the ocean. It all looks peculiar to me.

ASCAN1984
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From: County Down, Nothern Ireland
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posted 07-12-2010 04:40 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for ASCAN1984   Click Here to Email ASCAN1984     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Is there a list that exists anywhere of everything that was recovered of the vehicle or crew personal items?

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