When Weather Changed History – The Challenger Disaster (01×01)

The weather can be a massive, destructive force leveling cities, killing millions, and generally being an unmatchable reckoning tooling which can change in seconds and leave nothing behind. In a post-Katrina world, many would view the weather as a large scale, history changing might, but even with hurricane winds and damages something as simple as freezing temperatures can change history as explored in The Weather Channel’s new series, When Weather Changed History.

The series focuses on events in history that were caused or drastically altered because of the weather and its power. The pilot episode features the Challenger disaster in January of 1986 in which extreme cold caused o-rings within the space shuttles solid rocket boosters to lose their effectiveness and fail 73 seconds after launch. The though that a clear day in Florida could end in such horrific tragedy because of something so simple as cold weather certainly shows the many facets weather has to it, and how we almost take for granted the small stuff when faced with tragedies like tsunami and hurricanes.


The program is well constructed and paced throughout its 43 minute running time, devoting about half the show leading up to the accident and the second half on the cause and outcome of the investigation. Even nearly 22 years later, the footage of the accident, pictures of the debris in a hanger still bring a wealth of emotions and powerful feelings for the seven heroes who lost their lives on that cold January day.

A common device in TV programs these days is the prefacing and recapping of earlier events after each commercial break, and while its understandable that producers are editing to bring in additional viewers who might be channel flipping, those who are watching the entire program are usually treated to a total of five to six minutes of re-used information over the course of the entire program. When Weather Changed History is thankfully light only recapping 10-15 seconds before and after each break, but the device is already overused.


Interviews with the flight director and those responsible for launching the shuttle that morning provide a clear perspective into the mindset found in the Roger’s report in 1986, that no problems were known to them that morning and that larger problems within NASA had caused the ill-fated launch to proceed and disaster to strike. It’s nice to see references to the true problem that caused the problem, the groupthink mentality at NASA and not necessarily the weather, as the shuttle should have never been launched. Finally an ending reference of the Columbia accident nearly two decades later show that the everlasting affects of weather on man and technology will always be present, even as innovation advances.

When Weather Changed History premieres January 6th at 9PM on The Weather Channel with a look at the Challenger disaster. Future installments will feature The Battle of the Bulge, the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina among others with new episodes every Sunday.

Written by Erich Becker
Thirty-something with a love of everything we cover here, and a few things we don't. Erich has run Entertainmentopia since the site's inception in 1999, countless redesigns, a few crashes, and a lot of media later, here you have it!