Netflix’s new documentary ‘Challenger’ is a gripping look at the doomed flight and NASA in danger
Netflix’s new documentary “Challenger: The Final Flight” walks a delicate path both celebrating the lives of those lost in the 1986 space shuttle disaster and the politics and pressure to deliver that led to NASA’s darkest hour.
The four-part documentary series goes through a lot of history, including NASA’s efforts to diversify the space program, the half-dozen women who joined the astronaut class in 1978, and their idea of putting a school teacher in space as a PR stunt because the public had lost interest in space-shuttle missions.
Christa McAuliffe is the school teacher who was chosen for the doomed flight. Her name is the best remembered in what was at the point an unprecedently diverse crew, who died despite the warnings and alarms sounded by the shuttle’s safety and specifically the solid-rocket booster O-rings that led to the Challenger breaking apart 73 seconds into its launch.
The documentary features family and friends of those who died and NASA veterans, with former NASA employees recalling how their concerns went ignored, and the arrogance NASA had due to its space-shuttle program’s success.
“How could they live with themselves for making a decision like that?” asks June Scobee Rodgers, the widow of the flight commander Dick Scobee.
Original footage and home videos – that includes the looks on the faces of school children, NASA personnel, and the assembled crowd of families as they watched the disaster, will take you right back to the tragedy.
‘Challenger’ shows the romance that surrounded the space program which was a symbol of American know-how reinforced by its introduction of a reusable spacecraft.
It also documents the crash’s aftermath and the Reagan administrations desire to soft-peddle the conclusions of an investigatory panel so as not to cripple and embarrass NASA.
It appears NASA learned from its painful chapter, it took almost three years for NASA to fly another astronaut, in that time they addressed the technical problems and adapted its bureaucratic culture.
In the 35 years since that fateful day, NASA has lost only one other crew of astronauts – during the shuttle Comoumbia’s return from space in 2003. By the time the program ended in 2011, 833 astronauts had flown on the spacecraft – 14 never came back.
Earlier this year, NASA passed the torch to SpaceX – the first private company to launch American astronauts on a commercial rocket. SpaceX is now one of two main launch providers taking astronauts into space. And much like NASA in the 1980s, Space X has every intention of flying civilians. For now, space travel’s only customers are billionaires. But Elon Musk has made it clear that in the future he wants his rockets to open space up for anybody who wants to go.
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