Challenger: The Final Flight Review – Tragic, Informative, Emotional

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Challenger: The Final Flight, from Netflix, brings to the screen for the first time an insightful, informative, and investigative series on the causes behind the 1986 explosion, those who died and explores both human and mechanical failures.

Directed by Daniel Junge and Steven Leckart, and executive produced by J.J. Abrams and Glen Zipper, Challenger: The Final Flight, features interviews with surviving family members of each of the seven crew, Francis R. Scobee, Michael J. Smith, Ronald McNair, Ellison Onizuka, Judith Resnik, Gregory Jarvis, and Christa McAuliffe.


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For many Challenger is their John F. Kennedy Assassination, people across a wide demographic remember where they were when they heard the news of the explosion. On January 28, 1986, most U.S. citizens had developed a blasé attitude to the space shuttle. We were the greatest nation in the world and therefore no matter our ills, which then were not as pronounced, and so the expectation of greatness, of conquering every frontier, was not questioned.

We, as a nation, were not prepared for the Challenger explosion.

The four-part docuseries takes the viewer behind the tragic explosion and humanizes the tragic loss. We meet the surviving family members, we see them, hear how they became part of the Challenger team of astronauts. The sacrifice, dedication and devotion are all presented with authenticity.

The post-accident examination, now 34 years later, allows for greater massaging on the wounds. The docuseries pushes those outside NASA, those who built the booster rockets which had caused the explosion, to provide more insight. Was it simply human failure? A one-time disruption?

As the docuseries delves further, we understand the examination process of those in charge of the booster rocket and we learn an even more startling truth. Of course, no one will be shocked over the results. After each Shuttle mission the recovered booster rockets were examined for deterioration. What those examination found shocked everyone.


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Challenger: The Final Flight also reveals the difference in ideals from the booster rocket developers, all from a small town in Utah, and the NASA officials, all working within the government. It goes without saying the two thought patterns were strikingly different.

Of course, in addition to the mechanical failures, the 1986 Challenger space shuttle had been on the verge of ushering in an entirely different aspect of Space travel, that of the non-astronaut.

Christa McAuliffe, a high school teacher who was selected, after a nation-wide search, had been selected to be the first private citizen in space. The docuseries also builds on the enthusiasm surrounding the teacher in space program. The space shuttle program went from blasé to super stardom, essentially overnight. Once again it was cool to be a space cadet.

Challenger: The Final Flight incorporates news footage of McAuliffe and the runner up, Barbara Morgan, both of whom competed against 100 of the best and brightest of America's teachers to be a part of this program.

January 1986 was cold, historically cold, a deep freeze blanketed the south so much so Florida's orange growers needed to bring in heaters to keep the crops from destruction. The expectation, on January 28, 1986, was that the challenger lift off would be postponed again, due to the extreme cold.


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The public wasn't aware of the mounting pressure in Utah to give the go/no-go, nor did they know even the Shuttle commander assumed they would not launch. What the public understood, even as the Shuttle was covered with thick ice, is that this would be the second delay, and the public pressure to launch was mounting.

More than 500 guests, including buses of school children arrived at Cape Canaveral to watch the launch. The nation was poised, news stations were on sight, schools around the country were keen to watch the first teacher in space.

Of course, we know the ending. Tragically 73 seconds after launch as millions of Americans watched live on television, the Challenger broke apart, killing all on board.


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Challenger: The Final Flight is the first docuseries that provides an in-depth, deep background, look at the facts. More than the emotionally driven subject, the docuseries shows the torment of decisions made under pressure, of loss, and time which tragically does not heal all wounds. Moreover, the viewer is left with the belief that the loss could have been avoided.

Directors Steven Leckart and Daniel Junge also delve into 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. 

Challenger: The Final Flight incorporates 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. 

Informative, thought-provoking, and tragic Challenger: The Final Flight is airing on Netflix. See it.