Four-part docuseries on the 1986 Challenger space shuttle disaster, unpacking an indelible moment for a generation of Americans.Four-part docuseries on the 1986 Challenger space shuttle disaster, unpacking an indelible moment for a generation of Americans.Four-part docuseries on the 1986 Challenger space shuttle disaster, unpacking an indelible moment for a generation of Americans.
However... I have lived through all three major US space catastrophes, where we managed to kill (as of today) 17 astronauts in spacecraft (albeit three of those on the ground), and the sad truth about each of those tragedies is that they occurred because of people who put "schedules" and/or "money", ahead of crew safety. My "impression" is that, at the moment, we seem as though we might be over that hurdle (in our space program), but if for no other reason, this four-part documentary should serve as a cautionary tale, as it clearly shows how seemingly intelligent people, can make extremely dumb (or selfish) decisions, with total disregard for human life. It also clearly shows how, when incidents like these occur, you absolutely need to bring in a bevy of _independent_ outsiders to oversee the inevitable investigations that follow, because the guilty parties (be they individuals, or corporations) will go out of their way to try to gloss over their culpability, in having caused failures on this scale.
The focus of this documentary is different than a lot a previous efforts that cover this tragedy. It does go into a lot of detail about the root cause of the accident, how it was already a known (and very concerning) problem, and how/why managers within the contractor (Morton Thiokol) and NASA ranks choose to rationalize away the risks, simply to try to keep the shuttle program "on schedule". But this documentary spends just as much time talking about the seven people who lost their lives, and numerous family members and friends of the astronauts participated in new interviews, to give a more thorough understanding of who these people were, and what their lives were before the tragedy, and could have been, had their lives not ended so unnecessarily.
Also, there are interviews with people who risked the livelihoods to come forward during the Rogers Commission investigation, to provide information that no one else was providing, which clearly detailed the root cause of the accident, and the culpability of the people who decided to ignore the warnings of "impending doom". And, as with the family members, there are also new interviews (somewhat surprisingly) with the key (living) Thiokol and NASA employees who participated in the (flawed) recommendation to launch Challenger, even though their own engineers were vehemently opposed to doing so.
Anyway, this is an important slice of US Space Program history, and the series gives a solid understanding of how/why this tragedy occurred, as well as an "up close and personal" look at the people involved. I highly recommend it.
- Sep 16, 2020