Challenger: The Final Flight episode 3 recap – “A Major Malfunction” A corporate decision.



Challenger: The Final Flight episode 3 is a horrifying chapter — the cost of human lives minified by corporate decision-making.

This recap of Netflix’s Challenger: The Final Flight episode 3, “A Major Malfunction” contains specific information on the chapter.

We recapped every episode — check out the archive.

The opening

Episode 3 opens on January 28, 1986, with a daughter of a NASA employee describing how frustrated her father was on the way to work, predicting that there was going to be a catastrophic event. The scene flits to the doomed crew doing a photography session with Christa McAuliffe. It’s all very daunting.

It was a human risk

It was recognized that taking a non-astronaut in space was a risk — it’s a test vehicle, not a commercial flight; humans are more+8 likely to make an error than the equipment. Episode 3 uses archive footage to truly allow the viewer to understand the unprecedented nature of this event.


Episode 3 shows the crew spending time with family before the mission. It was a tradition before a launch. Archive footage makes it look like a family reunion — a sweet, quiet time.

The weather

Episode 3 shows how the countdown began and there was a risk of rainy weather. The door of the shuttle wasn’t closing properly so the engineers had to fix it fairly quickly. The launch did not start well. There was a slight delay in the flight due to the winds.

NASA had to consider a cold-weather launch so they had to do a risk assessment. The Netflix series earth’s a familiar name again — the O-rings. They believed the risks were higher. The theme of risk glazes through this entire series — it was evident that it’s a bad idea.


The recommendations raised at the NASA board was that there shouldn’t be a launch. The contractor even agreed with the high risk. However, one of the members wanted proof that the risk was higher. O-rings came back to the conversation — but it became a management hat, not an engineering hat discussion. Episode 3 reeks of a corporate embarrassment that smells of lack of logic. If a room of men have to debate whether it’s a risk and it’s too difficult to make a decision then surely, the launch shouldn’t have happened — there was a dissenting view and it wasn’t a unanimous decision.

The ending

There were icicles around the shuttle before the launch. Everything about this launch was flagrantly a bad idea. Launch day gathered many people. The excitement was felt in the air. The true magnitude of the event can be felt in episode 3, with an underlying sadness that a corporate decision was about to take seven lives. The launch was delayed by 2 hours but everyone at the control center polled that they should go.

“It was a beautiful, crazy cold day”

The 25th Space Mission was a tragic failure. The archive footage shows the launch and it ironically looks majestic in the air. The explosion gives such a numbing feeling. Archive footage shows everyone in the control room despondent. The pain and anguish on the spectator’s faces are soul-destroying. The loudspeaker says “The vehicle has exploded”.

I’ve watched many documentaries that show archival footage but this chapter was an experience that I will always remember.

Challenger: The Final Flight episode 3 is a horrifying chapter — the cost of human lives minified by corporate decision-making.

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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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