Saturday, November 16, 2013

"The Challenger Disaster" -- Tonight on Science Channel & Discovery

Science Channel premieres its first original scripted movie with tonight's The Challenger Disaster starring actor William Hurt as the charismatic Nobel Prize-winning physicist Dr. Richard Feynman.  Based on the late scientist's 1988 book What Do You Care What Other People Think?, The Challenger Disaster retells the story of the government's Rogers Commission which was charged with investigating the blow-up of the Space Shuttle Challenger on January 28, 1986, and Feynman's crucial role in holding NASA and its contractors responsible for the deaths of its seven crew members.

We're all familiar with William Hurt's major career -- from his early star-making roles such as in Altered States, Body Heat, Eyewitness, The Big Chill, Children of a Lesser God to more recent work as Into the Wild, Mr. Brooks, and The Incredible Hulk.  Hurt is less of a TV name, appearing in a limited number of TV projects including HBO's To Big to Fail, a recurring role in Damages, and as Ahab in a two-part Moby Dick for the Encore pay network.  In addition to Hurt as Feynman, The Challenger Disaster features veteran actors Bruce Greenwood (Star Trek, Flight, Super 8) as fellow Commission member Air Force General Donald Kutnya, Brian Dennehy (The Big C, Cocoon) as politician and Commission head William Rogers, Joanne Whalley (The Borgias, Gossip Girl) as Feynman's wife Gweneth, and Eve Best (Nurse Jackie) as astronaut Sally Ride.

There's no doubt that for many of us of a certain age the Challenger accident was a shock on par with the Kennedy assassination two decades before.  Unexpected, tragic, and -- as we later found out thanks to Dr. Feynman and the Commission -- probably preventable and caused by human failings and petty bureaucracy. The loss of the seven heroic astronauts including Teacher in Space Christa McAuliffe was a sobering reminder of the dangers of space exploration, and of course it was not the last loss of a Space Shuttle.

The Challenger Disaster is a must-watch for all Americans who believe in a strong space program and in the mission of NASA.  The dedicated individuals who make NASA's successes possible deserve the best from us, just as they owe their best to their fellow explorers.

Check out Science Channel's website for The Challenger Disaster by clicking here.  The movie is being simulcast on Science Channel and Discovery tonight at 9pm, with encores at 12m, and also showings tomorrow at 9p and 12m.  Check out The New York Times positive review here, too.

Here's some footage of the real Dr. Richard Feynman talking about his experience on the Rogers Commission.  Fascinating, and you can watch the entire documentary Richard Feynman - No Ordinary Genius here.  Feynman died of cancer in February of 1988 at the age of 69.  What a loss for humanity.

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