Movie Review: Challenger The Final Flight


The reality of working for most companies, regardless of the field is the stress of “it has to be done yesterday”. “We lose money if this is late”. “Despite the poor planning, we still have this delivery date, that just has to be met, even though it is not possible”. All of this increases stress and reduces productivity.

Within my career in the Information Technology field I have had many instances where a deadline or a time frame for completing a task has been unreachable, mostly due to the inability to accurately combine a measurement of time with a complex task.

In the case of the Space Shuttle Challenger, that exploded during its launch on January 28, 1986, one would have thought that because of the 7 people involved, including a school teacher, that the corporate and very often insane “beat the clock” paradigm would not apply in this case. Of course the safety of the astronauts is always the first priority? Even worse in the case of Challenger, the problems with the O-Rings (that were rubber protective seals for the fuel tanks), were known for a long time before the Challenger exploded. Unfortunately it was also known that fixing the O-Ring problem could have taken a year or more to redesign and implement. So the cost and time of the redesign became much more important than the lives of 7 brilliant people.

The new Netflix 4 part series “Challenger The Final Flight” is about the years of corruption and mistakes that led to one of the worst tragedies in the history of the United States Space program. All that went wrong on that tragic day in January 1986 was not only known about but completely preventable. The Challenger tragedy was eventually found to be much worse because so many people knew that it was only a matter of time before one of the fuel tanks would leak and cause a huge explosion. On the day of the tragedy, it was too cold to launch – another red flag – so the entire launch should have been cancelled, but it wasn’t for political reasons. Nobody in charge cared enough about the 7 lives that were eventually going to be be lost. Pressure to meet a deadline and to avoid the loss of money should never be more important than human life. On January 28, 1986 – money won.

History would repeat itself on February 1, 2003 when the Space Shuttle Columbia burned up on re-entry due to a problem with the heat shield, that was also known about and preventable long before the accident.

The Netflix four part series Challenger The Final Flight is an outstanding documentary about one of the worst tragedies in American history and should be seen by everyone.