May 26, 2019

Winnipeg
8° C, Partly cloudy

Full Forecast

Advertisement

Advertise With Us

Opinion

The Challenger anything but a disaster of a movie

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 22/11/2013 (2010 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

If you don't want to know the answer, don't ask the question. And if you don't want anybody to know the answer, don't seek the input of people who are determined to ask a lot of questions, over and over and over again.

These lamentably common bits of politically motivated "wisdom" -- or, rather, the failure to follow them -- provide the centrepiece for The Challenger, an engaging new TV movie that looks back at the work of the special Presidential Commission formed to investigate the explosion, shortly after takeoff, of the Space Shuttle Challenger on Jan. 28, 1986.

The 14-member panel charged with identifying the cause(s) of the disaster that claimed the lives of seven astronauts, including civilian/schoolteacher Christa McAuliffe, was comprised mostly of NASA scientists, military officials and lawyers and, as such, stood a very good chance of becoming nothing more than an exercise in various invested parties scrambling to cover their own behinds.

Except -- and here's where the necessary drama and understated heroism are injected into this fact-based drama -- for the decision by one NASA manager to recruit Nobel Prize-winning physicist Dr. Richard Feynman to the investigative team.

Get the full story.
No credit card required. Cancel anytime.

Join free for 30 days

After that, pay as little as $0.99 per month for the best local news coverage in Manitoba.

 

Already a subscriber?

Log in

Join free for 30 days

 

Already a subscriber?

Log in

Subscribers Log in below to continue reading,
not a subscriber? Create an account to start a 30 day free trial.

Log in Create your account

Your free trial has come to an end.

We hope you have enjoyed your trial! To continue reading, we recommend our Read Now Pay Later membership. Simply add a form of payment and pay only 27¢ per article.

For unlimited access to the best local, national, and international news and much more, try an All Access Digital subscription:

Thank you for supporting the journalism that our community needs!

Your free trial has come to an end.

We hope you have enjoyed your trial! To continue reading, we recommend our Read Now Pay Later membership. Simply add a form of payment and pay only 27¢ per article.

For unlimited access to the best local, national, and international news and much more, try an All Access Digital subscription:

Thank you for supporting the journalism that our community needs!

We hope you have enjoyed your free trial!

To continue reading, select a plan below:

All Access Digital

Introductory pricing*

99¢

per month

  • Unlimited online reading and commenting
  • Daily newspaper replica e-Edition
  • News Break - our award-winning iOS app
  • Exclusive perks & discounts
Continue

Read Now Pay Later

Pay

27¢

per article

  • Commitment-free
  • Cancel anytime
  • Only pay for what you read
  • Refunds available
Continue

*Introductory pricing schedule for 12 month: $0.99/month plus tax for first 3 months, $5.99/month for months 4 - 6, $10.99/month for months 7 - 9, $13.99/month for months 10 - 12. Standard All Access Digital rate of $16.99/month begins after first year.

We hope you have enjoyed your free trial!

To continue reading, select a plan below:

Read Now Pay Later

Pay

27¢

per article

  • Commitment-free
  • Cancel anytime
  • Only pay for what you read
  • Refunds available
Continue

All Access Digital

Introductory pricing*

99¢

per month

  • Unlimited online reading and commenting
  • Daily newspaper replica e-Edition
  • News Break - our award-winning iOS app
  • Exclusive perks & discounts
Continue

Mon to Sat Delivery

Pay

$34.36

per month

  • Includes all benefits of All Access Digital
  • 6-day delivery of our award-winning newspaper
Continue

*Introductory pricing schedule for 12 month: $0.99/month plus tax for first 3 months, $5.99/month for months 4 - 6, $10.99/month for months 7 - 9, $13.99/month for months 10 - 12. Standard All Access Digital rate of $16.99/month begins after first year.

We hope you have enjoyed your free trial!

To continue reading, select a plan below:

All Access Digital

Introductory pricing*

99¢

per month

  • Unlimited online reading and commenting
  • Daily newspaper replica e-Edition
  • News Break - our award-winning iOS app
  • Exclusive perks & discounts
Continue

Read Now Pay Later

Pay

27¢

per article

  • Commitment-free
  • Cancel anytime
  • Only pay for what you read
  • Refunds available
Continue

*Introductory pricing schedule for 12 month: $0.99/month plus tax for first 3 months, $5.99/month for months 4 - 6, $10.99/month for months 7 - 9, $13.99/month for months 10 - 12. Standard All Access Digital rate of $16.99/month begins after first year.

We hope you have enjoyed your free trial!

To continue reading, select a plan below:

Read Now Pay Later

Pay

27¢

per article

  • Commitment-free
  • Cancel anytime
  • Only pay for what you read
  • Refunds available
Continue

All Access Digital

Introductory pricing*

99¢

per month

  • Unlimited online reading and commenting
  • Daily newspaper replica e-Edition
  • News Break - our award-winning iOS app
  • Exclusive perks & discounts
Continue

*Introductory pricing schedule for 12 month: $0.99/month plus tax for first 3 months, $5.99/month for months 4 - 6, $10.99/month for months 7 - 9, $13.99/month for months 10 - 12. Standard All Access Digital rate of $16.99/month begins after first year.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 22/11/2013 (2010 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

If you don't want to know the answer, don't ask the question. And if you don't want anybody to know the answer, don't seek the input of people who are determined to ask a lot of questions, over and over and over again.

These lamentably common bits of politically motivated "wisdom" — or, rather, the failure to follow them — provide the centrepiece for The Challenger, an engaging new TV movie that looks back at the work of the special Presidential Commission formed to investigate the explosion, shortly after takeoff, of the Space Shuttle Challenger on Jan. 28, 1986.

The 14-member panel charged with identifying the cause(s) of the disaster that claimed the lives of seven astronauts, including civilian/schoolteacher Christa McAuliffe, was comprised mostly of NASA scientists, military officials and lawyers and, as such, stood a very good chance of becoming nothing more than an exercise in various invested parties scrambling to cover their own behinds.

Except — and here's where the necessary drama and understated heroism are injected into this fact-based drama — for the decision by one NASA manager to recruit Nobel Prize-winning physicist Dr. Richard Feynman to the investigative team.

As presented in The Challenger (which airs Sunday at 7 p.m. on Discovery), the story of the Challenger commission is really the story of Feynman's (portrayed by the always-interesting William Hurt) unwillingness to follow official procedures and his determination to find the single, scientific reason for the space shuttle's catastrophic failure.

Feynman, as portrayed here, is a man of tremendous intellect who has dedicated the later years of his working life to teaching and mentoring college students. Having worked as a scientist on the U.S. government's atomic-bomb program during the Second World War, he has very little use for bureaucrats, politicians or military brass. He's also dealing with what will soon be a terminal illness, so he's even less inclined to abide time-wasting people or tactics.

- Picture Shows:  Richard Feynman (WILLIAM HURT) - (C) BBC - Photographer: Patrick Toselli

BBC/PATRICK TOSELLI

- Picture Shows: Richard Feynman (WILLIAM HURT) - (C) BBC - Photographer: Patrick Toselli

Which, of course, makes it all the more surprising when he gets the call asking him to join the Presidential Commission. It turns out, however, that NASA's newly appointed administrator is a former student of Feynman's who believes the professor's expertise and independent outlook might prove crucial to the investigation.

He's right, of course. It's Feynman's refusal to accept the obfuscation-driven explanations from NASA officials and representatives of various contractors that provided parts for the shuttle that ultimately leads to the identification of faulty O-ring seals and unusually cold weather as the combined cause of the explosion.

And the way The Challenger unfolds its narrative makes it feel very much like a space-race version of All the President's Men, complete with secret sources, shadowy villains and the dogged determination of a protagonist who won't quit until he gets the story straight.

Most of the credit for The Challenger's success belongs to Hurt, who has made a career of bringing slightly damaged, awkwardly distant but morally grounded characters to life. His portrayal of Feynman hits all the right notes, and it's fascinating to watch.

Also solid in support are Bruce Greenwood as U.S. Air Force General Donald Kutyna, who becomes Feynman's strongest ally on the panel, and Brian Dennehy as commission chair William Rogers, whose adherence to "official" procedures puts him at odds with Feynman from the outset.

When it aired last week in the U.S., this movie was called The Challenger Disaster. For mostly practical reasons, Canada's Discovery net has opted for the title the BBC-produced drama carried when it was broadcast in the U.K.

It's a better choice, because The Challenger describes both the doomed shuttle and the man who sought justice for the victims of its preventable demise.

brad.oswald@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @BradOswald

Brad Oswald

Brad Oswald
Perspectives Editor

After three decades spent writing stories, columns and opinion pieces about television, comedy and other pop-culture topics in the paper’s entertainment section, Brad Oswald shifted his focus to the deep-thoughts portion of the Free Press’s daily operation.

Read full biography

Advertisement

Advertise With Us

History

Updated on Saturday, November 23, 2013 at 7:39 AM CST: minor editing

You can comment on most stories on The Winnipeg Free Press website. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or digital subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

Have Your Say

Comments are open to The Winnipeg Free Press print or digital subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to The Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

By submitting your comment, you agree to abide by our Community Standards and Moderation Policy. These guidelines were revised effective February 27, 2019. Have a question about our comment forum? Check our frequently asked questions.

Advertisement

Advertise With Us