On January 28, 1986, all eyes were on the launch of the Space Shuttle Challenger, which was notable for many reasons, including the inclusion of a civilian passenger, Christa McAuliffe, who was destined to be the first teacher in space. But at 11:39 A.M. EST, the world watched in horror as the Challenger broke apart 73 seconds into its flight, killing all seven crew members aboard. In the aftermath of the disaster, investigations revealed that NASA engineers had concerns about the safety of the launch beforehand, but there was a failure to address those concerns properly. Now, Netflix looks back at the disaster with the docuseries Challenger: The Final Flight.
This is bound to be a depressing docuseries, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth checking out – although I have to say: sometimes it’s okay to turn a story like this into a documentary rather than a multi-part docuseries. Just putting that out there.
In Challenger: The Final Flight, filmmakers Steven Leckart and Daniel Junge (and executive producer J.J. Abrams) bring us “a four-part docuseries that examines the 1986 Challenger space shuttle, which tragically broke apart 73 seconds after launch as millions of Americans—many of them schoolchildren— watched live on television. The series offers an in-depth look at one of the most diverse crews NASA assembled, including high school teacher Christa McAuliffe, who was selected to be the first private citizen in space.”
The docuseries also features conversations with the crew’s surviving family members, while the filmmakers will also examine the “fatally flawed decision process and mechanical failures that led to the disaster, interviewing former NASA officials and engineers who worked on the failed booster engine and had repeated concerns about its safety.” Viewers will also get “never-before-seen interviews, training footage and rare archival material to give viewers the most unfiltered, emotional behind-the-scenes look at these events to date.”
There have been TV and film explorations of the disaster in the past, including a very good 2013 TV movie called The Challenger, but this looks to be the first in-depth, multi-part documentary approach to the story.
Challenger: The Final Flight arrives on Netflix September 16.