The tragic launch rehearsal that nearly ended the Apollo Moon Program. The Mir Space Station collision of 1997. The re-entry failure of Space Shuttle Columbia. Each NASA and Soviet space mission is a high-stakes project with an ever-present risk of failure. This series pays tribute to the bold men and women who put their lives on the line in order to get a foothold in the heavens…sometimes with spectacularly disastrous results. We also show how the close calls and catastrophes of our past paved the way for the breakthroughs of today.
Season 1, Episode 01 – “First Generation”
Witness NASA’s early missions and tragedies–in the sky and on the ground–as it pushed the limits of space exploration.
Season 1, Episode 02 – “Failure at Re-Entry”
It’s one of the most challenging and dangerous phases of space exploration: bringing a spacecraft back to Earth. For decades, NASA and Soviet engineers and designers have struggled to build machines that can withstand the unforgivable heat and unthinkable speeds caused by re-entry into our atmosphere. Join us on some white-knuckled journeys home, as we reveal terrifying close calls, and devastating failures just moments from touchdown, from the tragic maiden flight of Soyuz to the 1979 Skylab panic to the 2003 Space Shuttle Columbia disaster.
Season 1, Episode 03 – “Fixing on the Fly”
In space, there are few second chances. When something goes wrong, it’s up to astronauts and Mission Control to come up with a solution together…and quickly. Witness some of the most unexpected accidents in the history of spaceflight, from Neil Armstrong’s head-spinning flight aboard Gemini 8 to the 1997 air leak at the Russian space station Mir to the race to fix an ISS solar panel tear in 2007. Then see how quick thinking and human ingenuity–on the ground and hundreds of miles above the Earth–help keep emergencies from becoming disasters.
Season 1, Episode 04 – “The Human Factor”
NASA vigorously trains its astronauts to ensure they are physically fit, mentally strong, and as reliable as the strongest machines. But the fact is, even the brightest of people make mistakes…and in the unforgiving environment of space, any error, even a small one, can have life and death implications. Join us as we examine space disasters caused by human factors, from a handyman blunder that nearly ruined a million-dollar Hubble mission to a sight-seeing distraction that caused a Mercury spacecraft to return to Earth 250 miles off course.
Season 1, Episode 05 – “When Weather Strikes”
Flying through bad weather can be a harrowing experience, and for NASA, it can be doubly unnerving, as violent storms can strike from below the atmosphere or above it. Witness the true power of nature in space and on Earth as astronauts and ground crews battle to overcome the elements, including a severe lightning strike that crippled Apollo 12’s computer system, the freezing temps that compromised the Space Shuttle Challenger, and the tempest of space debris that sent a dead satellite on a collision course with the International Space Station.
Season 1, Episode 06 – “Failure to Launch”
Sending spacecraft into orbit is an unforgiving business. Every launch is a long, controlled explosion that can turn into a fiery spectacle at the smallest error. Join us as we examine space exploration’s most disastrous liftoffs, from America’s “risky rockets” (the Vanguard, Atlas, and Titan II) to the Nedelin catastrophe, a massive explosion that Russia kept secret for decades. Then see how lessons learned from early failures led to soaring triumphs, including the most famous and powerful rocket the world has ever launched: the Saturn V.