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The Challenger Disaster (2013)

The Challenger (original title)
Factual drama exploring the truth behind the space shuttle Challenger's 1986 disintegration.

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1 win & 2 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Credited cast:
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General Kutyna
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Gweneth Feynman
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Rogers
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Mulloy
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Sally Ride
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Hotel Receptionist
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Michelle Feynman (as Megan Young)
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Avionics Engineer
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Dr. Weiss
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SRB Engineer
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Judson Lovingood (as Sean C. Michael)
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Allan J Macdonald
Danny Keogh ...
Head Of Recovery
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Taxi Driver
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Storyline

When Challenger disintegrated 73 seconds into its flight on the morning of 28 January 1986, it represented one of the most shocking events in the history of American spaceflight. A Presidential Commission was immediately convened to explore what had gone wrong, but with the vast complexity of the space shuttle and so many vested interests involved in the investigation, discovering the truth presented an almost impossible challenge. A truly independent member of the investigation was Richard Feynman. One of the most accomplished scientists of his generation, he worked on the Manhattan Project building the first atom bomb and won the Nobel Prize for his breakthroughs in quantum physics. Feynman deployed exceptional integrity, charm and relentless scientific logic to investigate the secrets of the Shuttle disaster and in doing so, helped make the US Space Programme safer. Written by Anonymous

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Drama

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16 November 2013 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

73 Seconds: The Challenger Investigation  »

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16:9 HD
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The reason Challenger's solid rocket booster didn't immediately begin extruding the flame which, at 73 seconds caused it to burn through its attachment and strike the fuel tank, was because aluminum oxide (a relatively recently added fuel-efficiency measure) present in the SRB created a 'slag' which fortuitously plugged the hole in the now burned-through O-Ring. It was only because Challenger, at 58 seconds, was struck by the strongest wind gust in the history of any launch that the 'plug' was dislodged - causing the now infamous blowtorch-like flame to spout from the SRB precipitating the shuttle's destruction. Challenger required little over a minute after the moment of its break-up to reach the point where the SRB's fuel would have been exhausted and they could have safely detached from the shuttle - thus allowing the Challenger, and its crew, to safely reach space. See more »

Goofs

(at around 42 mins) Typed notes show "bizarre", while typewriter / word processor display shows misspelled "bizzare". See more »

Quotes

Richard Feynman: What is science? Science is a way to teach how something gets to be known, in as much as anything can be known because nothing is known absolutely.
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Connections

Follows Challenger (1990) See more »

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User Reviews

 
Probability Never Achieves Unity.
17 November 2013 | by (Deming, New Mexico, USA) – See all my reviews

Admirably done story of physicist Richard Feynman's involvement in figuring out the reasons for the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger in 1988.

Three agencies were involved in deciding to launch that freezing morning -- NASA, Raytheon, and Morton-Thiokol. This isn't made clear in the film, because the film is about Richard Feynman. But a New Yorker feature article years ago described what the agencies did about their doubts. Calls were made back and forth between the experts at each agency, each anxious to "check its six o'clock", and the question being asked gradually underwent evolution -- from "Should we launch?" to "Why SHOULDN'T we launch?" The results were disastrous.

A committee was formed to investigate the causes of the failure, with Feynman being the only independent members, all the others tied up with the military or with political considerations. But this isn't one of those dumb and oversimplified stories in which there is some sort of military/industrial conspiracy against the whistleblower. It belongs to the genre but is a pretty good example of it. So was the more commercially oriented "The Pentagon Wars." An example of a dumbed-down rendition is "The Insider," which really has little to say and shamelessly invents incidents to hype the drama.

William Hurt captures Feynman's personality with accuracy. Not his speech or his gestures. It's not an impression. But he has a grasp on Feyman's inner character -- devoted to science and outspoken. Feynman was actually quite a guy and might be described as abrasive. He didn't hesitate to demolish the ideas of others, whether they were equals or subordinates. He didn't do it viciously. He simply pointed out how stupid the notions were and then went on about his business.

The climactic scene is unforgettable. All the engineers (who generally hate physicists for having their heads in the clouds) are testifying before the committee and throwing up a blizzard of jargon about "ambient temperatures" and "Kelvin coefficients" and directions to "the Wheatstone Bridge" and other unfathomable cant in order to keep the water so murky that no one can detect their own part in the catastrophe. I won't give away the climax except to say that Feynman pulls a "Bill Nye, The Science Guy" stunt that shuts all the connivers up and embarrasses the experts.

The BBC put this out. I suppose they could afford to be a little less careful with American political sensibilities. William Hurt and his scowl of amazement is about perfect. His illness isn't dwelt on for sympathetic effect but it was real enough; he died a short time later.


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