On January 28th 1986, the Space Shuttle Challenger broke up 73 seconds after the twenty-fifth Space Shuttle launch, killing all seven of its crew members. The disaster was, at the time, the most catastrophic loss in NASA history and is still remembered as one of the most disastrous and heartbreaking days in human space exploration. Following the tragedy a Commission was set up to get to the bottom of the disaster and uncover the cause of shuttle failure. The Commission contained former and current astronauts including the first American woman in space and the first man on the moon. It also contained a former Secretary of State, Air Force generals and physicists. One of these physicists was perhaps the most famous of the twentieth century, Richard Feynman. Feynman was crucial to the Manhattan Project which developed the atomic bomb and won the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1965 on the back of numerous papers and discoveries.
The Challenger (formerly titled Feynman and the Challenger) is a made for TV movie which first aired on the BBC on March 18th 2013. The film focuses on the role Richard Feynman (William Hurt) played in the Commission and the lengths that he went to; to prove what was really behind the Shuttle’s failure that January morning. The film intersperses real footage, including that of the actual event with dramatisations of Feynman’s quest for answers which are taken from Feynman’s autobiographical book What Do You Care What Other People Think? The movie is well researched and generally very well made and features a terrific central performance and compelling story.