Challenger (1990 film)
DVD release cover
|Written by||George Englund|
|Directed by||Ben Jordan|
|Composer(s)||David E. Cole|
|Country of origin||United States|
|Original network||American Broadcasting Company|
Challenger is a 1990 American disaster drama television film based on the events surrounding the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster. Its production was somewhat controversial as the families of the astronauts generally objected to it. The film concentrates on the safety inspections and arguments surrounding the O-rings that ultimately were blamed for the explosion of Challenger. While doing this, it also aims to show the personal humanity of the seven crew members. Generally, the film supports the Space Shuttle program and the dedication of NASA personnel in general while criticizing NASA management.
In the film, NASA managers and Morton Thiokol engineers argue back and forth about whether the data Thiokol has is adequate to support the risk they claim. In a teleconference, Thiokol engineer Roger Boisjoly describes to the NASA team the soot from prior O-ring "blow-by" incidents on prior launches as "black", trying to communicate the severity of the malfunction, and says "it looked bad". A NASA director challenges him, asking "What does the black color mean?" Boisjoly, played by Boyle, is unable to put into words a concrete logical argument for what is to him obviously a serious problem, and he just replies with something like, "I'm telling you, if you'd seen it, you'd know it isn't good." The NASA manager demands proof before he will ground the shuttle, and the call ends leaving Boisjoly frustrated and baffled at their attitude. Unable to prove their case with certainty, Thiokol managers cave in to direct pressure and reverse their recommendation, finally recommending launch.
Karen Allen portrayed Christa McAuliffe, Kristin Bond portrayed McAuliffe's daughter, Caroline (who was 6 when her mother died), and Kale Browne portrayed McAuliffe's husband, Steven. Coincidentally, Allen and Browne were married in real life.
Peter Boyle portrayed Roger Boisjoly, the Thiokol engineer most vocal about the danger of launching at extreme low temperatures because of the risk that the O-ring seals in the shuttle's rocket boosters would fail at those temperatures.
The film also examines the personal lives of the other members of the crew - Barry Bostwick as Commander Dick Scobee, Brian Kerwin as Pilot Michael Smith, Joe Morton as Dr. Ronald McNair, Keone Young as Lt. Col. Ellison Onizuka, Richard Jenkins as Gregory B. Jarvis, Julie Fulton as Dr. Judith Resnik - and their families - Angela Bassett as Cheryl McNair, Elizabeth Kemp as Jane Smith, Jeanne Mori as Lorna Onizuka, Debbie Boily as Marcia Jarvis, Melinda Ann Austin as June Scobee, Melissa Chan as Janelle Onizuka, Gavin Luckett as Reggie McNair, Naoka Nakagawa as Darien Onizuka, Thomas Allen Jr. as Scott Smith - before they boarded Challenger.
At the 42nd Primetime Emmy Awards in September 1990, Challenger won Outstanding Sound Editing for a Miniseries or a Special.