Word around the campfire is that The Challenger Disaster (airing Saturday, 11.16 on the Discovery and Science channels) is an engrossing, well-made docudrama. I haven’t seen it yet, but I wonder if it will mention the ghastly revelation that at least three crew members survived the explosion and were conscious until the shattered crew compartment smashed into the ocean at 2000 mph — a drop of 65,000 feet that took about two minutes and 45 seconds.

The Challenger Disaster spins an engrossing tale of how one stubborn scientist and a couple of stealth allies uncovered the truth about the 1986 space shuttle explosion despite high-level efforts to keep it buried,” writes N.Y. Daily News critic David Hinckley.

“It’s not just a good story, it’s a good story well told. It’s also on the right channels, since the science here makes the discovery.

William Hurt stars as Richard Feynman, a physicist who is asked to join the commission investigating why the Challenger exploded 73 seconds after launch.

“Despite the public’s outrage, or maybe because of it, commission Chairman William Rogers (Brian Dennehy) seems intent from the start to move slowly and conclude that the cause can’t be determined.
This would please NASA, which lobbies for additional funds. It would please the contractors that built the shuttle.

“Feynman, quietly aided by a few sympathetic folks like fellow commission member and former astronaut Sally Ride (Eve Best), eventually finds scientific evidence that can’t be unfound.

“While the coverup attempts here are infuriating, The Challenger Disaster doesn’t take the easy route of cartoon villains. The obstructionists are wrong, but they’re human.

“Hurt’s on familiar turf, playing Feynman with pauses as well as brilliance. It’s a performance worth Emmy consideration.

“What we need to remember is that The Challenger Disaster remains a cautionary tale, despite bring wrapped inside a story where the good guys win.”