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Challenger TV Film Upsets All Close to Teacher

February 22, 1990|FRANK BAKER | ASSOCIATED PRESS

CONCORD, N.H. — A TV movie about the Challenger disaster has upset and offended those closest to Christa McAuliffe, the New Hampshire schoolteacher who died in the shuttle explosion.

Among the critics are McAuliffe's mother Grace Corrigan and Concord Mayor James McKay, who said the film reduced him to tears. Corrigan and McKay said the movie failed to capture McAuliffe's personality.

Corrigan, of Framingham, Mass., said at first it was difficult to watch a screening of "Challenger," which will air Sunday on ABC.

"It started to upset me, then I said, 'No, I'm not going to let it because it is only a video,' " she said in a telephone interview this week.

Corrigan, whose husband Edward died this year and was buried four years to the day after the Jan. 28, 1986, Challenger explosion, said actress Karen Allen failed in her attempt to portray McAuliffe.

"I didn't feel it was Christa, but I didn't think it would be," she said.

MacKay complained the movie invaded the McAuliffe family's privacy and also said Allen's portrayal of the former teacher "in no way caught the depth" of McAuliffe's personality.

McAuliffe, a Concord High School social studies teacher who was the first private citizen chosen to fly in space, died with six other crew members.

Writer-producer George Englund said he knew there would be mixed reactions to the film but defended it as "sensitive in almost every aspect."

Officials at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration said the agency has taken no formal position on the movie, but two spokesmen said they believe sentiment at NASA runs against the film.

"It's the sort of thing that basically we think is probably too soon to be done," said Hugh Harris, deputy director of public affairs at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla.

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