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  Challenger (Ben Jordan 1990 ABC TV-movie)

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Author Topic:   Challenger (Ben Jordan 1990 ABC TV-movie)
englau
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From: tampa, florida, usa
Registered: Mar 2012

posted 04-09-2012 11:00 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for englau   Click Here to Email englau     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I recently came across the Challenger docudrama. Didn't realise such a thing existed until a couple days ago.
Challenger is an ABC TV-movie 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 breakup 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.
Did anyone else see it ever? I'd be interested to hear your reactions to it. I must admit I was quite surprised that they made such a thing.

Hart Sastrowardoyo
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From: Toms River, NJ,USA
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posted 04-10-2012 05:33 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Hart Sastrowardoyo   Click Here to Email Hart Sastrowardoyo     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I threw in the East Coast grab box a "crew photo" and photo of Karen Allen as McAuliffe both signed by Allen. Still have a whole bunch of publicity stills from the show that I'm trying to get rid of, and I don't remember much about the show. Other than none of the characters looked much like their counterparts.

onesmallstep
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From: Staten Island, New York USA
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posted 04-10-2012 08:55 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for onesmallstep   Click Here to Email onesmallstep     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I saw the movie when it came out, and twice in repeat and DVD. I guess you could call it 'earnest' and 'inspiring', which given the subject matter is praise enough. Yes, none of the actors look like the 51L crew, and they only give a sketchy essence of their personalities and not an impersonation.

They did try to give McAuliffe's scenes with Scobee a sort of mentor/student subplot, with her being the outsider and the crew coming around to the idea of integrating her into the crew. The only glaring 'caricature' I saw (and if memory serves his family protested) was the depiction of Mike Smith as a gee-whiz country boy out of his element. Obviously, you don't become a Navy fighter pilot and NASA astronaut playing dumb!

That said, it's sort of an interesting movie to see if you take it with a grain of salt. But it's always painful seeing Roger Boisjoly (played by Peter Boyle of Everybody Loves Raymond) argue against a launch, and not wonder what might have been.

Rick
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From: Yadkinville, NC
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posted 04-10-2012 02:43 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Rick   Click Here to Email Rick     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
DVDs of the movie are readily available on amazon.com for a few bucks.

p51
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From: Olympia, WA, USA
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posted 04-10-2012 08:27 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for p51   Click Here to Email p51     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
As Rick pointed out, it's on DVD, which I was surprised to see. I recently watched it on YouTube. I don't recall ever seeing it on TV when it first aired.

I agree that the crew was depicted as caricatures, but that's TV for you. I was surprised to see how hard they tried to get the flight gear correct in the scenes where the crew is getting into the orbiter before the launch.

The film ends with the crew's reaction to liftoff before the explosion and doesn't even mention what happened seconds later, which is odd because if you didn't know the history, you wouldn’t realize what the entire story is really about.

issman1
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From: UK
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posted 04-11-2012 10:51 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for issman1     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I remember how this TV movie received a lot of publicity at the time, just as secret military shuttle mission STS-36 was counting down.

Apparently, US news media reported that Christa McAuliffe's mother was not impressed by the performance of Karen Allen. The sad thing is that none of the actors bore any real resemblance to the astronauts (apart from the actor playing Ellison Onizuka perhaps?). If there is a big screen biopic then casting of all the main protagonists will be key to its box office success.

There was supposed to be a motion picture about Richard Feynman's central role in the accident investigation, starring David Strathairn, which never materialised.

Jay Chladek
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From: Bellevue, NE, USA
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posted 04-12-2012 09:29 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Jay Chladek   Click Here to Email Jay Chladek     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I saw it when it came out and it was okay, but not great when one learns more about the people involved. The bits with McNair and his soprano sax were interesting. I felt it did about as well as what a television movie can do with an event as big as Challenger.

"Truth Lies and O-Rings" by Allan MacDonald will give a more thorough account of what went on during that conference call the night before compared to what the movie portrayed.

As for the ending it had, the producers made a conscious decision on that since they knew a lot of the audience would have had a firm memory of the fireball itself. Why show in a film what had already been embedded in our minds? Given the time period, I would say it was a good decision.

p51
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From: Olympia, WA, USA
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posted 04-12-2012 10:15 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for p51   Click Here to Email p51     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Jay Chladek:
Given the time period, I would say it was a good decision.
I agree that at the time it was the right call, no question. But people can be forgetful and if you showed it today, many people (and yes, including people who were alive and well at the time) wouldn't get the ending because they wouldn't remember it.

Just like when I stood in line to see the movie, "Pearl Harbor" I overheard several people asking others what Pearl Harbor was...

Fra Mauro
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posted 04-13-2012 11:58 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Fra Mauro   Click Here to Email Fra Mauro     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Given the facts that it was 1) a TV movie and 2) a docudrama, it was an okay movie. It was made for the average home movie watcher, not a NASA enthusiast.

Greggy_D
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From: Michigan
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posted 04-19-2012 12:26 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Greggy_D   Click Here to Email Greggy_D     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by p51:
I was surprised to see how hard they tried to get the flight gear correct in the scenes where the crew is getting into the orbiter before the launch.
They didn't have to try hard because that was actual flight gear. The Launch/Entry Coveralls, Launch/Entry Helmets, and Life Vest Harness Assemblies were all authentic. I'm guessing at the time of filming, NASA still had the pre-51L gear in inventory and allowed it to be used in the production.

Where all of that pre-51L gear went (as a whole) is still a big mystery. A few shuttle astronauts have told me the Kansas Cosmosphere took ownership. The closest I have come to verifying that is some of the pre-51L jackets and trousers were listed as missing in the Max Ary case. No Launch/Entry Coveralls, Launch/Entry Helmets, or Life Vest Harness Assemblies were listed though.

aero-engineer
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From: Los Angeles, CA
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posted 04-20-2012 12:09 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for aero-engineer     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I remember being unimpressed with it when it first aired (as a pre-teenager). I used to have the TV Guide with the actors on the cover somewhere.

GoesTo11
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From: Denver, CO USA
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posted 05-15-2012 07:59 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for GoesTo11   Click Here to Email GoesTo11     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Mike Mullane mentioned the Challenger docudrama (his word) in Riding Rockets. As issman1 mentioned, it was apparently heavily promoted by ABC and aired just the night (maybe two) before STS-36 finally launched.

Mullane noted that his fellow crewmembers and their families, having already endured multiple strap-ins and launch scrubs, were already stressed to the max and hardly needed those reminders on their televisions.

Personally, I missed the program. In fact, like a couple other posters, I never knew it existed until this thread. Looking back, that's not surprising. The late 80s and early 90s were the low ebb of my interest in the space program...and three years of British TV had just made me a lot less reliant on the box for entertainment than your typical American teenager.

Hart Sastrowardoyo
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From: Toms River, NJ,USA
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posted 09-25-2012 12:41 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Hart Sastrowardoyo   Click Here to Email Hart Sastrowardoyo     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Was browsing the WalMart $5 DVD bin. It's available as one of four movies in a collection entitled (if I recall correctly) "Greatest Women's Movies," but there's more than one DVD with that title.

garyd2831
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posted 09-25-2012 05:05 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for garyd2831   Click Here to Email garyd2831     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I would actually like to see a more modern movie surrounding the Challenger accident produced.

onesmallstep
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From: Staten Island, New York USA
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posted 09-26-2012 03:26 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for onesmallstep   Click Here to Email onesmallstep     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I second that. They should also include Columbia, because the same mindset and management 'culture' were there for both shuttle disasters, regardless of what part/structure failed.

Jay Chladek
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From: Bellevue, NE, USA
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posted 09-26-2012 09:34 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Jay Chladek   Click Here to Email Jay Chladek     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Why? Movies are one thing... "entertainment". Sure some may have an educational value, but it is secondary to the entertainment. Even a great space film such as "Apollo 13" still took some liberties with the story and characters to compress events of several days down into only a couple hours. Every movie does that since they don't have the time or the scope to focus on a lot of stuff. Even "From the Earth to the Moon" took a few liberties with events to tell its stories (not that the approaches used weren't good, but they aren't intended to be history).

There have been plenty of documentaries and reports done on Columbia and Challenger over the years and even they tend to miss details. If one REALLY wants to understand those events, it is best to read the books on them instead. For Challenger, "Truth Lies and O-Rings" would be the best and Columbia's Accident Investigation Report and the Crew Survival report give everything one could want in details of that accident as it unfolded.

onesmallstep
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From: Staten Island, New York USA
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posted 09-27-2012 09:27 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for onesmallstep   Click Here to Email onesmallstep     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
True enough, Jay, movies are strictly entertainment, even 'Apollo 13', but you have to admit they can go out to a wider audience and perhaps give a different perspective than a dry, objective report or book like the one you mentioned. Look at the episode dealing with the Apollo 1 fire in From the Earth to the Moon; it certainly packs a lot of emotional heft in dealing with the decisions and recovery surrounding the fire.

Maybe with the distance of time and the end of the shuttle program, a good movie can be made, not necessarily for theatres but maybe on cable since they are putting on a lot of good things based on current events ('Game Change', for example, based on the 2008 presidential campaign).

Jay Chladek
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From: Bellevue, NE, USA
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posted 09-28-2012 01:08 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Jay Chladek   Click Here to Email Jay Chladek     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
You do have a point. But I guess what worries me is that films about historical space topics tend to be so hit and miss sometimes (with the ratio tending to be more misses than hits). We've been very lucky that Tom Hanks and Ron Howard were knowledgeable enough space buffs to film what we got as they gave a very even handed presentation of events (particularly Apollo 1). But Apollo is a relatively short duration program (I mean the flights as opposed to the whole development history) compared to shuttle and shuttle has had a bit more controversy over the years. I just don't want to see somebody go roughshod over it just to make money on a film. Sure, some very bad oversights were made and those stories should be told. But I don't necessarily think that one can necessarily point a finger at a small number of villains in classic "Whodunnit" style.

But as you say, as we get further from the actual events, maybe it might not be a bad idea to consider revisiting them, but only if it is done right.

jjknap
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From: Bourbonnais, IL USA
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posted 11-25-2012 08:37 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for jjknap   Click Here to Email jjknap     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Found this movie today at WalMart on an endcap for .99. No DVD box, just a clear plastic bubble over the dvd on a card that hangs.

Hart Sastrowardoyo
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From: Toms River, NJ,USA
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posted 12-24-2012 05:33 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Hart Sastrowardoyo   Click Here to Email Hart Sastrowardoyo     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Saw that too, and for a dollar, decided to pick it up. The backer card is destroyed when you remove the DVD.

Started to watch it - and already noticed it's Enterprise being wheeled into the VAB (lack of black tiles around cockpit and hatch) but Columbia lifted and rolled out to pad (black wing chines.)

Did Onizuka really express not liking non-professional astronauts flying on the shuttle?

Hart Sastrowardoyo
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From: Toms River, NJ,USA
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posted 12-27-2012 06:14 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Hart Sastrowardoyo   Click Here to Email Hart Sastrowardoyo     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Finally watched this through today. Look for the scene toward the end, when the Coast Guard calls and says the two SRB retrieval ships are on their way back because of the weather - the person taking the call is in a room which displays, among other mission emblems, one from STS-29R, which flew after Challenger.

ea757grrl
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From: South Carolina
Registered: Jul 2006

posted 12-27-2012 09:34 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for ea757grrl   Click Here to Email ea757grrl     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Hart Sastrowardoyo:
Did Onizuka really express not liking non-professional astronauts flying on the shuttle?

If he didn't - and I can't say for certain, but I don't recall reading that anything like that happened in real life, and the three closest books I have on hand about Challenger don't attribute any such comments to him - I wouldn't be surprised if the screenwriter, in the name of exposition (and the limits of the medium), used the Onizuka character as a way to express opinions held by some in the astronaut corps.

I sometimes teach screenwriting as part of my job, so I understand why that's done...but the historian in me cringes when I see it in a docudrama.

Hart Sastrowardoyo
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From: Toms River, NJ,USA
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posted 12-27-2012 10:08 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Hart Sastrowardoyo   Click Here to Email Hart Sastrowardoyo     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I don't doubt that some astronauts would publicly express an opinion; it's just Onizuka, in the first scene, comes across as having a hatred for non-professional astronauts.

With Onizuka a military officer, I would have expected the screenwriters to have him follow "praise in public, chastise in private," tone down his remarks, or give his lines to someone else.

p51
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From: Olympia, WA, USA
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posted 01-06-2013 09:36 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for p51   Click Here to Email p51     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by jjknap:
Found this movie today at WalMart on an endcap for .99. No DVD box, just a clear plastic bubble over the dvd on a card that hangs.
I found one myself, on sale, for only fifty cents! You can't go wrong there, so of course I bought a copy. I don't think I've ever seen it all the way through before, I was shocked to see so much NASA equipment being used, like T-38s and the FFT among other stuff...

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