"This wasn't how it was supposed to be."

By Rosy Cordero
September 02, 2020 at 11:00 AM EDT
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The lives of five astronauts and two payload specialists were tragically lost on Jan. 28, 1986, when the space shuttle Challenger blew apart, and a new docuseries is revisiting the events surrounding the disaster.

Netflix's four-part series Challenger: The Final Flight will premiere Sept. 16, transporting viewers back to when Francis R. Scobee, Judith Resnik, Ronald McNair, Ellison Onizuka, Gregory Jarvis, Michael J. Smith, and Christa McAuliffe began a journey that they dreamed would lead to the cosmos, but sadly ended in devastation.

As seen in the trailer — which EW is exclusively debuting above — archival footage will provide a look at the lives of the seven crew members, documentation of NASA staffers who approved the shuttle for space flight knowing it had potential issues, and the accident itself from various vantage points. Family and friends of those on board share personal stories in newly recorded testimonials, and how they've ensured their loved ones are never forgotten.

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"The images of the Challenger accident have stayed with the collective consciousness of our nation and the world, but it's hugely important we remember it for more than just the pain it caused so many," Glen Zipper, executive producer on the series and co-author of Devastation Class, tells EW. "Our series wants audiences to better know the seven heroes who lost their lives and left behind a legacy to educate and inspire, and more clearly understand the failures that contributed to the tragedy so they won't be repeated as we push further into space and the next frontier of exploration through the efforts of Space X, Blue Origin, NASA, and others."

The Final Flight also highlights celebrity space fans including Steven Spielberg and A Christmas Story star Peter Billingsley, the latter of whom was on site for the launch and interacted with McAuliffe's young son, Scott. At the time, Billingsley served as an ambassador for NASA's young astronaut program.

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On an unusually cold Tuesday morning in Central Florida, the Challenger broke apart 73 seconds into its flight. An investigation found that the tragedy was caused by the failure of a seal designed to prevent leaks in the fuel tank, due to the frigid temperature. It is as yet unknown when exactly those on board perished. The accident halted further shuttle flights for 32 months.

(Video courtesy of Netflix)

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