‘The Challenger Disaster:’ Part Political Thriller, Part Science Mystery

Celebrity Q&A, Featured Article, TV Shows
on November 2, 2013

I heard that BBC Two in the U.K. ran a movie about the Challenger 10 disaster. Is it ever going to air here in the U.S.?
—Arnold Bradley, Newport News, Virginia

The two-hour movie “The Challenger Disaster,” which is part political thriller and part science mystery, will premiere in the U.S. on Nov. 16, on Science Channel.

It is the story of the morning of January 28, 1986, when the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded in the sky over Cape Canaveral, Florida, just 73 seconds into its 10th mission, taking the lives of Teacher-in-Space Sharon Christa McAuliffe and astronauts Gregory Jarvis, Judith A. Resnik, Francis R. (Dick) Scobee, Ronald E. McNair, Mike J. Smith and Ellison S. Onizuka.

In the months that followed the tragedy, a special Presidential Commission worked to determine the explosion’s cause in the hopes of making future spaceflight missions safer. The commission was comprised of 14 members, pulled from the ranks of NASA, the military and other affiliated organizations, and one independent voice — Nobel Prize-winning scientist Dr. Richard Feynman, who was ill with sarcoma during the investigation, but who, nevertheless, took on Washington, D.C. politics, determined to ferret out the truth.

Based upon Feynman’s book, “What Do You Care What Other People Think?,” “The Challenger Disaster,” includes actual TV footage of the launch and explosion spliced into the acted scenes, and includes a recreation of the dramatic scene at a press conference, where Feynman demonstrates for all to understand that the O-ring — two of which failed during takeoff — was not as pliable as previously thought by submerging a piece in a glass of ice water.

“The Challenger Disaster” stars William Hurt as Feynman; Bruce Greenwood as fellow commissioner and U.S. Air Force General Donald Kutyna; Brian Dennehy as William Rogers, Chairman of the Presidential Commission; Joanne Whalley as Feynman’s wife Gweneth; and Eve Best as astronaut Sally Ride.

For even more information on Challenger 10, Science Channel is airing the documentary “Feynman: The Challenger,” on Monday, Nov. 18. Narrated by Bruce Greenwood, it examines the notable life of Feynman, including his work on the Challenger and his role in The Manhattan Project, a U.S. government-backed program that operated during the 1940s and led to the creation of the first atomic bombs.