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


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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Release Date:

16 November 2013 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

73 Seconds: The Challenger Investigation  »

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Aspect Ratio:

16:9 HD
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Did You Know?


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 »


When Feynman vomits in the men's room, he flushes the toilet on a modern automatic-flush toilet. These toilets did not exist in 1986. See more »


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.
See more »


Follows Challenger (1990) See more »

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User Reviews

Absorbing, Entertaining, Factual. A must see to understand one of 20th Century's defining moments.
14 April 2013 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

After the dramatic opening scenes where realism is achieved by using actual footage of the "Challenger disaster", the movie slowly develops as the audience begins to realize that what they are experiencing is not merely a factual drama/documentary about an unfortunate malfunction, but rather a thriller with "Good Guys" and "Villains" The choice of William Hurt to play Richard Feynman was brilliant. Hurt is acknowledged as a character actor who lives and breathes every role that he accepts and as the movie progresses it is remarkable that the viewer becomes so involved with the character that they actually forget that it is an impersonation. Hurt who in real life is a complex, some say awkward person, brings aspects of his own complexity to the role.

Joanne Whalley is supportive as his wife, but the story is very much that of theoretical physicist Richard Feynman.

Bruce Greenwood is a vital link in the whole drama. He deserves a lot of credit for his strong portrayal of General Kutyna a disciplined loyal military man who acts as the catalyst for the truth to prevail. Greenwood looks like he was born in a uniform. He assumes the role as naturally as if he'd taken leave from the battlefield to make the movie.

Eve Best provides a solid and sensitive performance as Sally Ride (First woman in space). Her role in the Rogers Commission remains a mystery and we only learn of it just before the credits roll.

Brian Dennehy as William P. Rogers (Chairman and, former secretary of state) exudes the physical appearance of a persuasive man who has his own agenda and delivers a powerful performance. Dennehy is a master at conveying meaning in a story merely through the raising of an eyebrow, a glint in his eye or a subtle shift of body position.

One needs to make special mention of the good performance by many of the South Africans who were used in supporting roles. In particular Robert Hobbs who plays Allan J Macdonald a man torn between doing what is right whilst realizing the personal cost that might result.

There is no mention of the members who made up the "Rogers Commission". (Not even in the credits). The commission was comprised of some of the most influential members of the military and should surely be identified.

James Hawes directs with firmness and allows the story to flow and develop with fascinating insights into Feynman the scientist, but also Feynman the man and husband who had to fight his own person battles as a subplot.

Lukas Strebel camera shots are interesting. I feel the use of camera positioning where half the frame is blocked was at first novel, but maybe repeated too often and in some scenes it would have been better to allow the subject to take up the full frame.

The ending comes suddenly almost as if the editor had to condense the material into exactly 90 TV minutes. It is rumored that there might be a movie release where the running time will increase to 120 minutes. The Challenger is scheduled for the Discovery channel in the USA in November. Most probably renamed "73" – (Challenger broke apart 73 seconds into its flight).

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