Challenger: The Final Flight review – a haunting and upsetting account of NASA’s biggest failure The reasons behind the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster.

4.5

Summary

Challenger: The Final Flight is haunting and effective with incredible archive footage to back up NASA’s biggest failure.

Netflix series Challenger: The Final Flight will be released on the platform on September 16, 2020. 

We recapped every episode — check out the archive. 


As strange as it is, when we think of NASA, we think of the moon landings; we think of possible alien life that may have been discovered; we think of the possibility of going to Mars. It’s perhaps with good public relations and our selective history that we have swayed aside from the tragic history that is part of our evolution of space missions. Challenger: The Final Flight documents a tragedy — an unprecedented event that rocked a nation. A time where everyone would tune in to watch a shuttle launch and not wait for an update on Elon Musk’s Twitter account. To put it simply, it was an emotionally engaging time where scientific developments were celebrated, not debated in a culture war.

On 28th January 1986, Space Shuttle Challenger launched and after 60 seconds, the boosters exploded, bringing death to the seven passengers on board. It was marked a “Major Malfunction”, a “Catastrophic Event’. Prior to the tragic event, the selling point of this scheduled launch was that NASA had appointed a non-astronaut on the mission — a teacher named Christa McAuliffe. Of course, this was big news. From a NASA standpoint, this was a PR move that would have had reverberations all over the country — there were plans for her to provide a lesson to children from space. Space had become an entertainment business as much as scientific development — from a corporate standpoint, NASA needed to keep public interest piqued.

Netflix’s Challenger: The Final Flight is a difficult documentary series to swallow — it aligns specific events with precious archive footage that fits well with the approach. Documentary series’ can sometimes walk into the trap of relying on old footage but this limited feature is directed well, feeding the audience the right information at the right time. Challenger: The Final Flight has a way of gauging the emotional weight that was felt at the time; the pain and anguish that followed a national and exciting event.

The Netflix series delves into the reason this became a catastrophic event and changed the way NASA operated forever. It presents murky governance structures, arrogance, misplaced oversight, and pressure to stick to a schedule to maintain government budgets. The docuseries examines how a corporate approach can unwind such disregard to human lives; how warnings can be moved from desk to desk and the probable issue becomes a recognized silence. This does not put the organization in a good light — it’s a dark history that blots their timeline, but at the same time, the documentary series shows how human failure can lead to greater achievements. Audiences will find themselves shaking their fists at the TV while also recognizing the evolution that soon came after.

Challenger: The Final Flight is haunting and effective with incredible archive footage to back up NASA’s biggest failure.


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Daniel Hart

Daniel Hart is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has operated as Editor-in-Chief since 2017.

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