“Challenger: The Final Flight” Review

Jack Kelleher

Staff Writer

Netflix’s newest documentary, “Challenger: The Final Flight,” covers one of the most infamous events of the 20th century. As the disaster took place nearly two decades before I was born, I had minimal knowledge of the event at best, but this documentary provided an in-depth summary of the event, as well as an informative look at its impact on the space program and the United States.

“Challenger: The Final Flight” is a four-part documentary which encompasses the context of the event, the astronauts, the actual disaster, and finally the lasting impact of the Challenger disaster. The first part begins with an ominous sequence foreshadowing the eventual disaster. The documentary then informs viewers of the context surrounding the event, which plays an important role when the documentary later reexamines the cause of the disaster. The documentary then examines the crew of the Challenger and what about this specific launch made it so special. On the Challenger were seven passengers, commander Dick Scobee, pilot Mike Smith, astronauts Gregory Jarvis, Judith Resnik, Ronald McNair, Ellison Onizuka, and teacher Christa McAuliffe, with the documentary taking time to talk about each person’s professional and personal lives. School Teacher Christa McAuliffe was the most exceptional person of the crew, as she would have been the first civilian to go to space and held a special bond with the children of the nation because of her occupation. 

Finally, the documentary covers the disaster, its aftermath, and how the disaster affected the American public and the families of the victims. This shuttle launch affected the American public in a way that no other could, mainly because of Christa McAuliffe. The documentary makes it clear that, because she was a teacher, Christa McAuliffe allowed the space program to become more relatable and interesting to Americans, especially children. So, when disaster struck, it felt more personal to the American public than it would have otherwise. This increased public pressure on the government to either shut down the space program or reform it, something which is explored in the final part. 

I found the documentary fascinating and it was able to deliver the information with tension throughout, despite the final outcome of the mission being known to the viewer. The interviews humanized the victims and the events, giving it a much more emotional tone that encouraged the audience to sympathize with the victims and their families. 

Overall, “Challenger: The Final Flight” is a comprehensive look into a disaster that shook the United States to its core and affected the youth across the nation. I would absolutely recommend this to anyone interested in learning about the Challenger disaster or anyone interested in watching a thrilling and captivating series.

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