If America’s modern space age began in the 1960s, it hit a wall in 1986 with the Challenger disaster, when the U.S. space shuttle by that name exploded during takeoff, killing all seven crew members aboard. The element that took this from sorrowful and tragic error to generation-defining news event was the presence onboard of Christa McAuliffe
, a civilian schoolteacher specifically chosen for the mission in order to catalyze student interest in America’s quest for the stars. Those students drawn to watching the launch by the promise of a relatable figure to take them along were confronted with live-television tragedy when O-ring seals failed in unusually cold weather; space exploration may have continued, but some innocence or optimism was lost.
The case made by “Challenger: The Final Flight
,” a new four-episode documentary series on Netflix
produced by J.J. Abrams
and Glen Zipper
, is that this didn’t need to happen.