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SPECIAL COVERAGE: Living With Wildfires: San Diego Firestorm 10 Years Later

The Space Age: NASA’s Story: Tragedy

Airs Tuesday, July 26, 2011 at 11 p.m. on KPBS TV

Geologist-Astronaut Harrison Schmitt, Apollo 17 Lunar Module pilot, is photog...

Credit: NASA/ Eugene Cernan

Above: Geologist-Astronaut Harrison Schmitt, Apollo 17 Lunar Module pilot, is photographed next to the American Flag during extravehicular activity (EVA) of NASA's final lunar landing mission in the Apollo series. The photo was taken at the Taurus-Littrow landing site. The highest part of the flag appears to point toward our planet earth in the distant background.

"The Space Age: NASA's Story" offers a fresh look at an amazing organization and mankind's quest to understand the universe. Blending stunningly restored footage with revealing, insightful and engaging interviews with the people who were there - the astronauts, family members and journalists - this is an epic story of the heroes, the triumphs and the tragedies of space exploration.

Starting with NASA's beginnings in the Cold War, this four-part series follows the iconic moments of space exploration from the race to get the first man in space to the first steps on the moon. And with triumph and achievement comes risk and disaster, as the series follows the white-knuckle suspense of Apollo 13 and the tragedy of the shuttle Challenger. Intelligent, inspiring and accessible, "The Space Age" is a complete history of mankind's journey into space.

"Tragedy" - With repeated triumphs and new challenges come increasing risk, until loss breaks the pattern. The white-knuckle suspense thriller of Apollo 13’s famous near-disaster is only a triumphant prelude to darker moments ahead.

The launch of the space shuttle program promises routine trips to Earth orbit for many new astronauts. But just when that promise seems fulfilled, routine shuttle launches begin to bore the public. NASA responds by training a school-teacher to fly, in order to teach children lessons from space. Christa McAuliffe’s life is tragically cut short as she and the rest of the crew perish aboard the shuttle Challenger. All missions are halted.

Eventually the shuttle returns to orbit, for fifteen years of successful missions until disaster strikes again with the shocking loss of Columbia. It would be the beginning of the end for the shuttle.

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