Challenger: The Final Flight episode 2 recap – “HELP!” The O-ring.

4.5

Summary

Episode 2 delves deeper into NASA’s problems as it uses various archive footage to unearth the impending catastrophe that could have been prevented.

This recap of Netflix’s Challenger: The Final Flight episode 2, “HELP!” contains specific information on the chapter.

We recapped every episode — check out the archive.


The opening

Episode 2 sees NASA going through the motions of bringing through a teacher in the astronaut team. Experts claim that once the space missions became routine, the public got bored. “HELP!” shows how public support keeps the programmes going.

Non-astronaut

To keep things exciting, they wanted to introduce a non-astronaut — NASA allowed people to apply, approved by President Reagan — he wanted a teacher. The winner will go to space. This clearly is an unprecedented and historically outrageous moment — it’s high risk putting someone who is a non-astronaut in space, especially when space exploration was relatively new.

A disaster waiting to happen

The solid rocket boosters are discussed again in Episode 2 — the problems were listed in every agenda, every meeting. Archive footage shows how the boosters had erosion when recovered — the O-rings were singed. If the O-rings failed, the rocket explodes. The problem kept on arising with the NASA engineers. “HELP!” presents how this was an issue that was sooner rather later — it was always going to be a catastrophe.

The teacher choice

Episode 2 then flits back to the teacher choice — Barbara Morgan was chosen as the backup; Christa McAuliffe was chosen to fly into space. A strange, reality TV-esque moment. Archive footage shows an emotional Christa accepting the position.

Fly, fly, fly

It seems NASA had a dream to make space flights cheap and regular but it was never going to be possible.

The issue keeps showing

And Episode 2 goes back to the booster problem again — the O-ring issue was a near catastrophe in one of the launches. The experts could not figure out what the overall issue was. There was no correlation to the issues to understand why this was happening.

Lessons in space

There were plans for Christa to do live lessons from space. It’s easy to see that from a PR perspective, NASA and the government had an “American dream” type narrative in mind.

The ending

NASA scheduled many missions in 1986 which was ambitious. Despite the risk of catastrophe, NASA still wanted to increase the number of launches. Eventually, a memo was sent to the supplier of the boosters saying “HELP!” — the O-ring was recognized as a red flag. Despite knowing the problem and a replacement ready in two years, a waiver was signed, recognizing it was “not an issue enough not to fly”. Keeping to schedule and keeping the budget was the priority.

Engineers were noted to hold their breath with every launch in fear of a catastrophe. This was a humanitarian crisis on so many levels. Challenger: The Final Flight episode 2 delves deeper into NASA’s problems as it uses various archive footage to unearth the impending catastrophe that could have been prevented.


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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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