National Geographic takes an in-depth look at the events that led up the Space Shuttle Challenger mission and the tragedy that followed in the documentary “The Challenger Disaster: Lost Tapes.” It was supposed to be one of the greatest scientific achievements in American history. Instead, it became one of the worst moments in American history. This documentary takes a look at the process to decide to send a teacher to space, how the teachers were selected, the training the teacher and backup teacher had to undergo and how joy turned to devastation in the blink of an eye.
There is no narrator for this documentary instead letting history and the lost tapes to tell the story. When used correctly, it’s an effective way to tell a story and educate your audience. When used incorrectly, it just makes for a boring documentary. Thankfully, National Geographic nailed this one. Interviews and a narrator would most likely distract from the story they are trying to tell about the idea for a scientific advancement and the sad circumstance that came with this attempt.
There are some parts of this documentary that are hard to sit through. Knowing what’s coming, it’s hard to sit through interviews from Christa McAuliffe’s family happily discussing the upcoming mission. It was hard to sit through an interview with her then-six-year-old daughter from 1985 who said she didn’t want her mother to go to space, she just wanted her home. That interview would tug at your heartstrings if this mission was successful, but, knowing how it ends, it’s devastating to hear. Then, there’s the immediate aftermath of the tragedy. The documentary shows McAuliffe’s parents as they realize something has gone wrong and they probably just watched their daughter die. The documentary shows the students at the New Hampshire school where McAuliffe taught as they watched the launch on television and the realization that something had gone wrong. Those are all very hard to sit through even if you know what’s coming.
This is definitely a well done documentary. It gives an informative and educational look at the selection process, the training, the mission and the tragic aftermath. This is one of the most studied tragedies in recent American history. I don’t think there’s anything that could’ve been presented in a more traditional format that hadn’t been explored before. But this documentary finds a way to inform the viewer while making the viewer feel for everyone involved.
Rating: 4.5 stars
What did you think of “The Challenger Disaster: Lost Tapes.”