The 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!
- Sharon 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.
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.
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.
- Ellison 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: