09192020 Challenger_TheFinalFlight_LimitedSeries_Episode4

From left to right (Top): Ellison Onizuka, Christa McAuliffe, Gregory Jarvis and Judith Resnik. From left to right (Bottom): Michael J. Smith, Dick Scobee and Ronald McNair. The crew of the 1986 space shuttle Challenger. Netflix’s new limited series “Challenger: The Final Flight” covers the 1986 disaster.

By Jason Guyer

On January 28, 1986 — a day that stands out for the most tragic of reasons — I was two-and-a-half years of age.

I don’t directly remember the Challenger disaster but I do remember learning and hearing about it.

Obviously, for us in New Hampshire, there was an added connection and need to learn of the Challenger mission.

As a child in middle school the trips taken to the Christa McAuliffe Planetarium were among my favorite. Although it is now called the McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center.

For me, space has always been something I am happy to learn about or watch a television series or film on. My personal favorite space documentary is the recently released “Apollo 11.” The only problem with this documentary is it’s meant to be seen in theaters or IMAX to get the most out of it.

The very first film I ever saw in theaters was Tom Hanks’ “Apollo 13” and though many other space films are undoubtedly some of my favorite films, “Apollo 13” is and will always be at the top. So naturally, Netflix’s new limited series “Challenger: The Final Flight” was high on my watch list.

“Challenger: The Final Flight” is about the events leading up to the Space Shuttle Challenger explosion shortly after launch on January 28, 1986, one of the most shocking events in the history of American spaceflight and in all of American history for that matter.

Seven astronauts died that day in 1986, including Christa McAuliffe.

Christa McAuliffe was a teacher from New Hampshire who aimed to be the first teacher to ever travel into space.

The Challenger launch and McAuliffe’s journey was broadcasted live on television by millions of viewers as the long-anticipated launch turned to tragedy.

It is estimated that 17% of the American population witnessed the launch on live television that day and mostly because of the presence of high school teacher Christa McAuliffe.

People today assume news travels fast but even in 1986 media coverage of the accident was extensive. There was even a study that reported that 85% of Americans surveyed had heard the news within an hour of the accident.

What Netflix’s series brings to the table is the event in its entirety from the perspective of all those involved including those who worked for NASA and family members of the people on the Challenger flight.

The shock factor Netflix tries to bring to light was the cause of the disaster. Netflix plays the cause as almost conspiratorial.

I find this a little distasteful; conspiracies always contain a certain amount of foresight towards the information they are trying to hide or provide and malice towards those who it negatively affects.

After watching “Challenger: The Final Flight” in full I would say this is not the case with the Challenger flight.

Yes, there were some really bad decisions made and those people I feel are responsible and have to live with that.

The problem is making bad decisions is not what makes a conspiracy. Sometimes human error is just human error.

The easiest thing to believe for many is that “everything is connected” and the truth is that’s not true.

The majority of the time, as can clearly be seen in “Challenger: The Final Flight,” all it takes is a series of bad decisions. The Netflix series “Challenger: The Final Flight” shows this.

The pressure to succeed adds in the want or need to succeed with a little cover my own rear and you have the ability for bad decisions to be made. These types of decisions happen everywhere and often. In the case of the Space Shuttle Challenger, it sadly cost lives.

This is only one part of the “Challenger: The Final Flight” limited series and quite frankly is the least interesting part of the series. The cause of a disaster is important for sure but when lives are lost it is always the least interesting part of one.

The most interesting and beautiful parts of “Challenger: The Final Flight” are the ones that focus on the people who lost their lives. Michael J. Smith, Dick Scobee, Ronald McNair; Ellison Onizuka, Christa McAuliffe, Gregory Jarvis and Judith Resnik.

These people were brilliant and affected the world in a great and beautiful way. This especially goes for Christa McAuliffe, although the rest do as well.

McAuliffe is definitely the center of attention when it comes to the Challenger disaster and the most well-known. And “Challenger: The Final Flight” shows you why.

Christa McAuliffe was a hero in more ways than just putting on a space suit. “Challenger: The Final Flight” explores Christa McAuliffe through family and those she was around in the space program.

The best “Challenger: The Final Flight” has to offer comes from Barbara Morgan. Morgan was Christa McAuliffe’s backup.

Barbara Morgan eventually became the first educator astronaut to reach orbit. She flew on the STS-118 flight of the shuttle Endeavour in August 2007.

How Morgan talks about McAuliffe and their friendship is what “Challenger: The Final Flight” is all about and what it should have been all about.

Morgan shows a clear affection towards McAuliffe and everything McAuliffe stood for.

“Challenger: The Final Flight” showing a glimpse into who the seven members of the Challenger disaster were as people is truly great television.

“Challenger: The Final Flight” is worth the watch as the Netflix limited series lets the lives of Michael J. Smith, Dick Scobee, Ronald McNair, Ellison Onizuka, Christa McAuliffe, Gregory Jarvis and Judith Resnik take flight again.

Hopefully the same 17% of the American population who on January 28, 1986, saw the disaster live will tune in to Netflix for “Challenger: The Final Flight.”

The challenges and risks of space flight is dangerous and deadly but in the name of human civilization could ultimately be worth the risks.

We just have to remember that what Netflix and “Challenger: The Final Flight” shows us is that while they are no longer with us, their contributions to humanity and scientific exploitation live in each curious gaze upwards toward the skies above.


Jason Guyer is an avid moviegoer and works in the graphics department at the Eagle Times. For questions or comments he can be emailed at guyerj@eagletimes.com.

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