Challenger - Disaster and Investigation (film #5 on NASA DVD (Madacy Entertainment, 1999)). [Category: News]

This is the official NASA film that discloses the findings of its investigation of the causes of the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger. It begins with a sequence showing us the astronauts suiting up and entering the crew quarters of the shuttle just prior to launch. The narration is obviously the narration that took place at the time, telling us about the astronauts and their previous histories, career highlights, and personal qualitites. The mood is the typical elation of a space mission, and it's eerie to watch the happy crew members crawl into a round hatchway in which they would face death only minutes later. Then we see footage of the launch and explosion. The only soundtrack during this sequence is a single highly unemotional narrator, probably from Misson Control, describing the launch. The explosion happens suddenly, without warning, and is spectacular, yet the narrator seems not to notice at first––for a few seconds he continues to spout straightforward launch data. Then for several seconds after that, there is dead silence, as we watch the fireball turn into a huge cloud and pieces of debris begin to fall. Finally, the narrator admits that "obviously there has been a major malfunction"––this has to be the Official Understatement of the Century. The rest of the film decribes in very technical terms the analysis of the films of the explosion, the search and retrieval of portions of the shuttle, and the final judgement of what caused the accident (in case you haven't heard, it was faulty O-rings). This is not quite as interesting as the opening sequence, but it is still an important piece of history, as is the entire film. This film is worth the entire cost of the NASA DVD.

Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: N/A. Weirdness: ****. Historical Interest: *****+. Overall Rating: *****.

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