Premieres Monday, January 25 at 9 PM ET/PT
on the National Geographic Channel
Certain images are permanently etched into our national memory, and the Space Shuttle Challenger explosion is one of them. On Jan. 28, 1986, with the eyes of the world watching, the space shuttle abruptly burst into flames during a live television broadcast. All seven crewmembers died, including a social studies teacher who was supposed to be the first American civilian in space. The heartbreaking tragedy instantly became a defining moment in American history.
To mark the 30th anniversary of the Challenger disaster, the National Geographic Channel combed through long-forgotten news footage, radio reports, audio recordings and rarely seen NASA footage to retell the events leading up to, during and immediately after that fateful day, taking viewers behind the scenes of this compelling and historic story in a way never before seen. The one-hour special includes no narration and no commentators, instead unfolding the story solely through the reports of journalists covering the story at the time, extensive audio and video recordings from NASA and archived interviews with the flight crew and others who were part of the one-of-a-kind mission.
“Thirty years later, it’s still difficult to watch footage of the Challenger. However, the National Geographic Channel special is very compelling and respectful,” said Barbara Morgan, the back-up to Teacher in Space Christa McAuliffe.
The special follows the story of the Space Shuttle Challenger and its crew, specifically Christa McAuliffe, a teacher from Concord, New Hampshire. The 37-year-old mother of two was chosen from thousands of applicants to be the first teacher in space as part of President Ronald Reagan’s initiative to bring interplanetary studies into the classroom.
During one of the opening scenes in Challenger Disaster: Lost Tapes, viewers see rare footage of McAuliffe rehearsing lesson plans onboard the space shuttle and later testing out science experiments in a gravity-free environment. These lessons were intended to be done live from space and beamed into classrooms nationwide.
• NASA’s interviews with Christa McAuliffe, the winner of the Teacher in Space Program, and Barbara Morgan, the backup teacher who was selected to train alongside Christa in case of any last-minute problems
• Candid video and photos of McAuliffe touring the space shuttle with her husband and two young children
• Audio recordings from inside the Challenger cockpit during takeoff, including Cmdr. Dick Scobee’s final words just before the space shuttle exploded.
• Footage of the launch pad during the launch at Canaveral, Fla., and inside Mission Control in Houston, Tex., as the disaster unfolded
• Video of students at Concord High School in New Hampshire, who watched in horror as the space shuttle exploded with their beloved teacher inside it, as well as unforgettable video of those seated in the Grand Stand at the launch site, who witnessed the explosion firsthand.
• Behind-the-scenes NASA footage of Vice President George Bush and Sen. John Glenn talking to members of the Challenger launch team hours after the explosion. They both traveled to Houston to tell the launch team that the nation was standing with them.
• Recordings of local New Hampshire radio reporters who followed Christa during the year that she prepared for the launch, and their eyewitness accounts as they stood in the grandstands watching the tragedy unfold.
• Behind-the-scenes footage at the CNN Newsroom in Atlanta as reporters scrambled to cover the explosion as it happened.