The Challenger Disaster movie on Science Channel: Science Channel’s first dramatic feature dramatizes the inquiry into the cause of the 1986 space shuttle Challenger explosion through the eyes of Nobel Prize-winning physicist Richard Feynman (William Hurt). Feynman cut through red tape to uncover breakdowns in the governmental, scientific, design and engineering communities that oversaw the space program.
The 1986 explosion of space shuttle Challenger and the loss of its crew is one of the indelible moments in American history — a sobering gut-punch to America’s space program and a disillusive lesson that the most complex machine ever built is still not invulnerable to human weakness.
Science Channel’s first dramatic feature, The Challenger Disaster, dramatizes the Rogers Commission’s inquiry into the cause of the tragedy through the eyes of Nobel Prize-winning physicist Richard Feynman (William Hurt). Feynman cut through red tape to uncover breakdowns in the governmental, scientific, design and engineering communities that oversaw the space program. In the end, Feynman demonstrated how the rocket booster O-rings’ failure was symptomatic of unrealistic expectations (NASA claimed the risk of catastrophic failure was 1 in 100,000), bad science and even worse communication.
The Challenger Disaster succeeds in portraying Feynman as a rogue scientist going up against Big Government and Big Aerospace, and while a movie needs villains for dramatic effect, the Powers That Be, who merely want to cover their own asses, come off as too malevolent. And Feynman comes across as less of a genius discovering a needle in the haystack and more of the guy who just forces everyone to admit that they knew where the needle is all along.
The most compelling parts of The Challenger Disaster are the actual footage of the fateful launch and news coverage of its aftermath, which cut deep throughout. Those images should be remembered as America enters an uncertain era in space exploration, as should Feynman’s words: “For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for nature cannot be fooled.”
The Challenger Disaster movie premieres Saturday, Nov. 16, at 9pm ET on Science Channel (simulcast on Discovery Channel).
Photo: © BBC Credit: Patrick Toselli