‘Challenger’ Docu-Series Rehashes the Past as Space Enthusiasm Flies High

Netflix Challenger Docu-Series - Courtesy Netflix

Interest in space exploration and history has increased immensely since last summer’s historic NASA mission with astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley. America’s space program and the business of private and commercial space exploration is flying high.

Last May, “Bob and Doug,” became the first American astronauts to launch into space from U.S. soil since the end of the NASA Shuttle Program. The launch reignited the dreams of young people — and mature people alike. The successful mission marks the beginning of a new era in space.

And, as shown in the Netflix docu-series, Challenger: The Final Flight, excitement comes with the beginning of a new space program. When the Shuttle Program launched in 1981, there was enthusiasm for the reusable “space truck.” But sadly, the Netflix mini series, much like the ill-fated 1986 Challenger STS-51L mission around which it focuses, starts out with vigor but ultimately fails.

Shuttle Launch Complacency

The docu-series once again raises many old questions. By the mid-1980s, had the U.S. public become complacent in its interest in the consistently successful Shuttle launches?  Did that belief lead the government to rush the mission known as the “Teacher Shuttle” that carried Christa McAuliffe and six other astronauts just to drum up enthusiasm?

Rehashing The O-Rings Debate

As the series proves, hindsight is always 20-20. In the show, interviewees get their additional 15 minutes, talking about regret and discussing the doubts they had that the Challenger mission would succeed. All these years later.

The series rehashes the investigations and accusations that surfaced following the Challenger tragedy,  including O-rings and icicles, previously covered daily in the news for years following the failed mission. Challenger The Final Flight also wastes no efforts repeating the obvious: That launching a rocket ship off of the Earth and into space is risky.

But the biggest question here goes unanswered: Why did Netflix release this downer at precisely the time America’s hopes for the future of space fly high?