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Kristen Stewart to Make TV Debut Playing Astronaut Sally Ride in "The Challenger"


Sat 08 Jun 2024 | 12:32 PM
Kristen Stewart and Sally Ride
Kristen Stewart and Sally Ride
Yara Sameh

Kristen Stewart will make her TV series debut in "The Challenger", a limited series in which she’ll play Sally Ride, the astronaut and physicist who became the first American woman to fly in space. 

Ride reached this milestone as part of a NASA space shuttle astronaut class of 1978 that was the first to be diversified and not comprised of all white men.

Kyra Sedgwick’s Big Swing Productions developed and brought the project to Amblin and is executive producing with Steven Spielberg’s Amblin Partners and Stewart through the latter’s Nevermind production label. Amblin’s Darryl Frank and Justin Falvey are also exec producers.

Maggie Cohn will serve as the writer and showrunner; her credits include "American Crime Story", "The Staircase" and "Narcos: Mexico". 

The project has been the hot property on the TV auction block this week and Amazon is close to tying it down. It is based on "The New Guys", a book written by Meredith E. Bagby, who partners with Sedgwick and Valerie Stadler in Big Swing. They are also executive producers.

In some ways, this has the tapestry to tell the successor story to "The Right Stuff", which was based on Tom Wolfe’s book about the culture clash that occurred when the cockiest world’s best fighter pilots jumped into the space race that America was engaged in with the Russians. 

Bagby tells the story of a group that was called by their predecessors ‘The F*cking New Guys,’ as NASA sought to diversify its pilots and crew for the space shuttle program. Also in that program was the first Black and Asian American astronauts, and a married couple. 

They passed all the rigorous tests to become top of the class, and egos, ambition, and romance were part of the cultural clash. They were also quite brilliant.

In 1983, Ride became the first American woman to fly on the space shuttle and became an instant celebrity. The joy was short-lived, however, when three years later the space shuttle Challenger blew apart 73 seconds into its ascent, killing all seven members of the crew. 

Ride then became the only astronaut to become part of the Rogers Commission, a presidential commission to investigate the disaster, and it later came out that she pinpointed the problems with O-rings that became stiff at low temperatures, and that turned out to be the reason for the explosion. Ride died from cancer at age 61 in 2012, a true American hero. 

The hope will be to get this ready to time the series in proximity to the Challenger disaster anniversary. That happened 38 years ago, on January 28, 1986. 

The series marks Stewart's continued career evolution that started after the Twilight films, in which she has established herself as a most watchable actress with range.