Are the Crew Members of 1986 Space Shuttle Challenger Still Alive? No.

challengerThe following conspiracy theory was brought to our attention by Adam Pittman, and we thank him for doing so.

“In 1986, the crew of the Challenger was supposedly killed when their shuttle exploded. Recently, people that looked identical to the crew have been found to still be alive. Not only do they look identical, but a they either have the exact same name, or are said to be the identical twin of the crew member that was killed. Richard Scobee even has a facebook page and is CEO of Cows in Trees. If you could check into his schooling that is listed on his Facebook perhaps call the school and see if they indeed had him as a student etc. His high school and college are listed on his Facebook. Thanks”

The modified group photo of the astronauts shown has been making the rounds on social media with increasing frequency of late.

We tried. We dug. We find no credible evidence to support this particular conspiracy theory, and a fair amount against it.

Further, we at SDHoS are deeply offended that such a conspiracy theory was even concocted, as it throws a shadow on the honor of men and women who sacrificed their lives while trying to improve the human condition through exploration of space.

First, conspiracies do exist, but they all share one common trait: They exist to benefit the goals and desires of the conspirators.

What possible benefit would a conspiracy such as this one confer upon NASA and any other involved parties? None. Actually, quite the opposite. If the goal were to give NASA access to additional funding (Dollars are almost always at the root of conspiracies), this would have the opposite effect. Showing the American public an obvious failure of a multi-billion dollar project is not the way to get lawmakers to allocate a bigger chunk of the national budget. No benefit = no reason for a conspiracy.

Second, if such a conspiracy were to exist, and do what has been alleged, is it in any way logical that the ‘still living’ astronauts would be cleverly concealed with any of their original names intact? (Think ‘Witness Protection Program’) This little flaw in the theory is shared by many faux conspiracy theories. It’s alleged that a clandestine group devises ingenious methods to pull off some hoax, then makes easily avoidable and obvious mistakes that botch the whole plan. Two words: Highly improbable.

On these two points alone, the probability of this conspiracy theory having any validity diminishes to near-zero.

But let’s look at the alleged photographic ‘evidence’ in support of the claim. First, what’s with the ‘?’ next to Gregory Jarvis in the group photo above? NASA only chose to replace 6 of the 7? They wouldn’t have ignored him in their nefarious (yet nonexistent) conspiracy! He was the payload specialist!


  • ChristaMcAuliffe_comparedSharon Christa McAuliffe (deceased) and Sharon A. McAuliffe are alleged to be the same person.

Other than having dark hair, we find differences in facial structure, even taking the aging process into account. As evidence, we are unconvinced. It’s unfortunate that there are no clear photographs of the ears of each, as differing ear structure comparisons can be used to distinguish photographs of people regardless of age.

Further, During the same time period, Christa McAuliffe was continuing her education with Bowie State University, Maryland and Framingham State College in Massachusetts, while teaching at Concord High School in New Hampshire, Sharon McAuliffe was studying at Syracuse University and holding down a job at a Syracuse accounting firm.

It would be difficult, if not impossible, for one person to be in different places, doing different things, during the same time period.

Logic would tend to imply that these are not the same individual.

  • Commander Francis Richard Scobee (deceased) and Richard Scobee are alleged to be the same person.RichardScobee_compared_01

Remember the comment about ear structure? These two photographs are NOT the same person. Besides the ears, there are other facial differences that one would need to WANT to see them as the same person to ignore.

Selected for NASA Astronaut Corps in January 1978, Scobee completed his training in August 1979. While awaiting his first orbital spaceflight mission, he served as an instructor pilot for the Shuttle’s 747 carrier aircraft. In April 1984, he piloted Challenger mission STS-41-C, which successfully deployed one satellite and repaired another.

Francis Richard Scobee, the astronaut, was training to be an astronaut and acting as an instructor pilot for the shuttle’s 747 carrier aircraft while Richard Scobee, the alleged doppelganger, was employed, full-time, at The Marketing Edge, Inc. in Chicago (.

Busy guy, don’t you think? Again, almost impossible for one person to fill both these roles simultaneously.

We have no option but to conclude that these were, indeed, two separate men; one, sadly deceased, the other, alive and well and currently CEO of Cows in Trees.


  • Ronald McNair (deceased) is alleged to be alive and well in the person of his brother, Carl McNair.

Hm. So, the astronaut bears some resemblance to a very close family member. Nope, that doesn’t really do it for us as far as evidence goes.

Additionally, the life of Carl McNair is well documented before, during and after the Challenger disaster. Are we to believe that a swap was made, and then the original Carl McNair was somehow ‘disappeared’?

This defies even the most rudimentary logic. Wouldn’t it have been easier and simpler for NASA to just get rid of Ronald instead?

Once again, we are compelled to call ‘shenanigans’.

  • Judith Arlene Resnik, Ph.D. (deceased) and Judith Resnik are alleged to be the same person.JudithResnik_compared

Do we need to discuss the photos? These two images are NOT the same person, unless basic skull structure changes with age now. (It doesn’t)

Consider that while Judith Resnik, Ph.D., was engaged in work and study at RCA, NIH, Xerox, and NASA, Judith Resnik the lawyer was teaching law school classes at Yale and USC.

If this were the same person, she’d have to have been as busy as Commander Scobee.

Again, the conspiracy narrative only works if we ignore the photographs and life history of both of these people.


  • onyzuka_compared_01Ellison Onizuka (deceased) is alleged to be alive and well in the person of his brother, Claude Onizuka.

Seriously? Another ‘replaced his brother, then the brother was disappeared assertion’?

Now they’re not even trying.

Same issues as with the McNair brothers.

The lives of both brothers are documented, and they overlap. Both are known to have existed. CONCURRENTLY!

IT seems that this is yet another piece of ‘evidence’ that we are forced to consider non-evidence.


  • Michael J. Smith (CAPTAIN, USN) NASA ASTRONAUT (DECEASED) and Michael J. Smith (University of Wisconsin-Madison) are alleged to be the same person.

While the nose may appear to be similar, oh my, there’s those darned ears again. The disappearing mild brow ridge is another giveaway. These are not photographs of the same person.

OK, let’s look at the timelines. Michael J. Smith (University of Wisconsin-Madison) was the Chairperson, Department of Industrial Engineering, University of Wisconsin-Madison from July 1, 1988 to June 30, 1998. Hm. Two years after the Challenger disaster. Wow, maybe…

Nope. Michael Smith is the Robert Ratner Professor of Industrial and Systems Engineering.  He has an affiliate appointment in the department of Population Health.  Professor Smith has been at UW-Madison since 1984.  He has also taught as an adjunct faculty member at Xavier University in Cincinnati and at the University of Cincinnati.  He served as a research program director at the US National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health from 1974-1984 where he directed a research program on human factors, ergonomics, and safety.

So, it seems he existed both before, and after the Challenger disaster. Further, it seems he held a rather significant position at UW-Madison before, during and after the Challenger disaster. Odd, that. Once again, claim refuted.

The entire staff of Science Denier Hall of Shame refuses to remember the brave crew of mission STS-51-L as they are presented in the photo at the top of this article, each with an indication of dishonor. If we are to remember a photograph of the team, let it be the following:


10 comments on “Are the Crew Members of 1986 Space Shuttle Challenger Still Alive? No.

  1. I almost got to thinking this theory was true (eek!), but ultimately I don’t think the conspiracists question enough. It’s hard to believe that others can honestly believe that, apart from anything else, SO many people involved in alllllll of those space missions (the conspiracy theorists say NO-ONE has been to space) would be able to keep a faked anything a secret for all these years!! Secrets don’t stay secrets for long these days, especially when so many people have been involved, and from different countries too (thinking International Space Station).

    • Glad you commented! There’s nothing wrong with considering the merits of the various conspiracy theories out there. Watergate seemed pretty improbable before all the evidence started coming out!
      The comment you added shows logical thinking. (And I’m not just saying that because you came to the same conclusion we did.) You took into account not just the available data, but the probabilities of all that would need to occur for the particular theory to be true.
      We also look into similar issues on our youtube channel ( ), often with a bit of (attempted) humor involved. If that format is interesting to you, we’d be glad to hear your reviews of what we’ve done there. If you find any places where we’re just plain wrong, we’d love to hear about it. Being wrong is a good thing, because when someone corrects us, with logic, reason and data, we learn something new!
      Again, thanks for commenting!

  2. I’ve seen the pictures and they are convincing to me. Now that I’ve skimmed through this article, I see a sizable mistake in writing off NASA’S possible motives backfiring in two ways. The first is that the majority of NASA budget charts show a substantial increase after 1986 where as before it was steadily decreasing. Second the possibility that NASA was trying to scrap the shuttle program by showing how unsafe it actually was. This makes even more sense today since they don’t use the shuttle at all and are co designing capsule style rockets right now. It is impossible to dispute the human element in the shuttle disaster. These people would have to leave family members and their own children for untold amounts of money. It just seems too unlikely at that step. I remember watching the Challenger launch in elementary school, it remains vivid to this day. After seeing the absurd theory I hope that our government is better than this but we do live in the age of deception.

    • Yep ! We live in a world of “witness protection program” style cover up operations & false documents that lead to a non U.S. Citizen becoming President.

      NASA has ALWAYS been a shady $$ vacuum ever since we gave it to Nazis.

      This has NOTHING to do with “denying science”.

  3. I for one cannot dismiss the possibility of a hoax entirely . The commenter says the pictures don’t resemble each other. I disagree
    secondly we cannot know what motivations nasa may have. As above commenter stated nasa budget actually increased after 1886. Perhaps the hoax was only meant to be an unmanned empty shuttle sent to orbit? Like in the movie Capricorn one the disintegration of the challenger may have been truly accidental . Then nasa was forced to pay off the crew . The above article “de bunking” the possibility of a hoax leaves out many other facts such as ancestry com having NO records of Onizuka brother or McNairs. Also fails to mention that Resnicks father moved across country near the doppelganger resnick. After he collected 2 million dollars from govt for faulty o rings . I for one would like to see a real family picture of the Onizuka and McNair brothers. Also ssdi. Records failed to record or show deaths of the crew until this “conspiracy “came to light recently . One part of got forgot to get the word In timely
    Many other anomalies add up to defy statical belivability Of doppelganger story being coincidence . In closing the government is rife with lies , conspiracy , and fraud to the taxpayers . Not really so hard to believe Crew was paid (or else!!!) For cooperation and silence. May have had an offer they couldn’t refuse.
    The same hired shills that would discredit the hoax theory are same ones who gave us Oswald magic bullet , gulf of Tonkin incident, roswell weather balloon, 911, apollo transversing van allen radiation belt. etc etc etc ad absurdum.

    • Have you ever heard of Occam’s Razor? It is a long-standing scientific principle that suggests that the more logical pretzels you have to twist yourself into in order for something to be true, the less likely it is that your proposition is based in reality. This conspiracy completely fails that test.

      A few points: is a business owned by the Mormon Church, who are apparently fascinated by genealogy because they believe they can retroactively baptize their deceased relatives whether that person would have wanted it or not. I’m pretty sure it doesn’t work that way, but hey – they’re entitled to their religion, no matter how strange I or anyone else happens to find it. That’s the great thing about religion – it doesn’t require proof. Science, otoh, does not work that way. In any case, the point here is that the fact that someone is or isn’t in the database means absolutely nothing. Notice the guys who aren’t in the Mormon database are black. I’m not saying there are no black Mormons, but they are in the minority. It doesn’t surprise me at all that they aren’t in there. Part of the reason the Mormons started in the first place was in order to collect more data and grow their database. Even they are not claiming to possess a complete genealogy of everybody in the world, or even the country. That someone does not show up in their database does not prove that person does not exist. It only proves that the database is still incomplete.

      My grandmother always told us “Be sure the truth will find you out”, or alternately, “Be sure your sins will find you out.” In my 46 years of experience she was absolutely right. The truth does have a way of coming out. The number of people who would have to be involved, of necessity, in order for there to be a conspiracy makes it extremely unlikely, for that reason: sooner or later soneone would slip up and say something to the wrong person, or get a guilty conscience or whatever and the truth would come out.

      Bottom line: extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. So far, no evidence has been presented that stands up to even casual scrutiny.

  4. I find just the thought of some idiot even thinking of this as a conspiracy immensely upsetting and sick. Those people died serving not just their country but the entire world. The more we learn about our Universe the better the human race will become. Should humans ever require an exodus from Earth to some other planet, those people will be thanking NASA and the brave pioneers who made their journey possible.

    To rub their names in the dirt is sickening and testament to how low some people stoop to make money from their YouTube videos. That’s the only incentive for these charlatans, post a video which by it’s title will encourage anyone to watch it’s contents. The sooner YouTube grows a pair and starts banning this kind of tripe the sooner such conspiracies will die. Without that YouTube payment for views the offensive videos will vanish overnight.

    • I served my country in the USAF and as a matter of fact I was on my 13th day of basic training when we heard about this “horrible tragedy.” Of course we then watched it on TV. It’s despicable what the USA does to us with the mainstream media and educational system: BRAINWASHING, PROGRAMMING, INDOCTRINATING, MISINFORMING and DUMBING DOWN. Precisely as depicted by Aldous Huxley and George Orwell from Brave New World and 1984, respectively (fictional novels in case you didn’t know). Keep on grazing in the field, baaaaaah, baaaaaaah. I fear that you will have the shock of your life in the very near future.

  5. Are you kidding me? The old photo of the alleged Christine McCullough is NOT EVEN HER! Compare it to the flight team photo at the end, IT IS SO OBVIOUS! And every photo comparison matches up… the old white guy could’ve easily had ear surgery, but I bet it’s just that as he aged, his ears grew larger as they say, and they drooped a bit. Easy plastic surgery on browline as well. The story of the “two” astronauts/pilots… Yeah, right. Extremely lame stories, or even too confabulated in one case and identical facial features and even the way the black guy holds his head for the shot! COMPLETE HOAX! You also know that NASA was born by the NAZIs at the end of WWII, or you didn’t? As far as motive, I’d guess greed, power, evil. Same world, different day. WAKE UP! DONT BE A SHEEPLE! NASA=NEVER A STRAIGHT ANSWER; NOT A SPACE AGENCY. I could go on but, do your own damn RESEARCH!

    • Things happen on this planet, yes. I dont consider myself a sheep at all, and there are plenty of things going, which I dont velieve a single bit. However THAT ONE, is ridiculous and if you, Tracy, really believe that conspiracy theory then i think you’re lost actually….they dont change their names and have facebook pages? Come on, please….also they really dont look alike that much. Why would you “ear surgery” instead of a real plastic surgery that makes you look different? You tell people to wake up, which is true, but in this case its you who is dreaming.

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