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Challenger football returns to space 31 years after crash

8:59 AM SGT 8/2/17
USS Challenger Space Shuttle Crew 27102015
Generations were united in outer space when a ball that had travelled with one of the Challenger astronauts made it to the International Space Station

A football that was onboard the tragic Challenger space shuttle has been sent into space 31 years after the deadly accident. 

On January 28, 1986 the shuttle exploded 73 seconds after take-off at Cape Canaveral, United States, killing all seven members of the crew. 

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But their memory was resurrected this week thanks to the efforts of Shane Kimbrough, a member of the team manning the International Space Station which orbits the earth. 

The astronaut published a photo of the ball floating in the Station's laboratory, dedicating it to one of those killed in the tragedy, Ellison Onizuka. 

"This ball was on Challenger that fateful day. Flown by Ellison Onizuka for his daughter, a soccer player," he wrote, just days after the anniversary of the crash that shook the US. 

Both Onizuka and Kimbrough sent their children to Clear Lake High School in Houston, Texas, marking a connection between the two astronauts. 

Onizuka's daughter Janelle was 16 at the time of the accident and playing for the Falcons football team - as does Kimbrough's son. 

"Space station commander Col. Shane Kimbrough took a piece of CLHS Falcon history into space," the high school wrote on its website.

"The soccer ball was signed by members of the CLHS girls and boys soccer team in 1986 and was carried onboard the last flight of the space shuttle Challenger by another Falcon dad – Col. Ellison Onizuka."