The Challenger Disaster (2019, directed & written by Nathan VonMinden) is about the day preceding the Challenger disaster, focusing on the tribulations of the booster rockets manufacturer (Marshall Space Flight) trying to delay the doomed launch. Why? Because their engineers – led by Eric Hanson (Adam) – suspect that the O-rings will underperform at cold temperature. We know today that they were right, but in 1986, they failed to overcome the business decision to launch. It is a fascinating depiction of the events… At one point in the movie, the engineers must put together a presentation (in 45 minutes) to demonstrate their point to NASA’s engineers. When the extent of the task panics Jose Quinones (Edwin), the funniest line of the movie is delivered by Garry Nation (Dean), a very composed engineer: “It is 1986; we are rocket scientists, we work with NASA … we are going to fax it.”
The period (1986) is favorable to vintage computer spotting. And indeed, we can see a slew of TRS-80 Model III computers (none of them working), few Apple Macintosh computers (possibly Plus models), and a beautiful Apple //e Platinum and its 3.5” floppy drive unit. Unfortunately, only one of the machines (a Macintosh – locked in the boot screen) is powered on, nilling our chances to spot some juicy space code. Regardless, the film is captivating and is an excellent complement to the homonym TV series (The Challenger Disaster, 2013, directed by James Hawes and written by Kate Gartside). In particular, we never see Richard Feynman (played by William Hurt) in the movie. Therefore, I am wondering I should watch it again to see if the TV series states that Feynman root-caused the catastrophe (the failing O-rings), or used the whistleblower’s data to convince the Presidential Commission. If you remember, leave us a comment.