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NEW YORK — Many Americans vividly recall Jan. 28, 1986.

That was the day the space shuttle Challenger exploded after liftoff. School children across the country had tuned in to see Christa McAuliffe become the first teacher in space.

One person watching was Steven Leckart, a space-obsessed elementary school kid.

"I remember wanting to be an astronaut and I remember wanting to go to space. And then I remember Challenger completely shattering my dream for that."

Leckart has returned to that dark day as co-director of the four-part Netflix documentary series "Challenger: The Final Flight," executive produced by J.J. Abrams and Glen Zipper. It premieres Wednesday.

The series approaches the disaster less like a post-mortem and more like a drama. It explores NASA history and the lives of the seven lost astronauts, why the accident occurred and the inquest that followed.

Zipper and Leckart conceived of it in 2015 while looking to make something personal. Both had seen the disaster as boys but could only remember the name of one astronaut aboard Challenger: McAuliffe.

The more they dug, the more they found extraordinary people: Ellison Onizuka was the first Asian American in space and Ronald McNair was the
second African American. Judith Resnik was the
second American woman in space and the first
Jewish woman.

 

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