False: The crew of the Challenger space shuttle is still alive and living under different identities.

By: Annet Preethi Furtado
October 18 2022

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False: The crew of the Challenger space shuttle is still alive and living under different identities.


The Verdict False

The Challenger shuttle's crew died in the spacecraft's explosion. Conspiracy theorists falsely claimed to have evidence that the astronauts are alive.

Claim ID 3b5a6c30


A video on Facebook promotes the conspiracy theory that the space shuttle Challenger explosion in 1986 was faked and that the crew did not die. A Facebook page posted a video claiming, ''The more I looked into this spaceship and this explosion, the more questions I had. For example, every single astronaut on the space shuttle apparently had an identical twin; what are the chances of that?'' He adds, ''Turns out, six out of the seven are still alive and kicking today!" Other allegations included that they faked satellite data and used a swimming pool to stage a low-gravity environment. These claims have previously been debunked by Snopes and PolitiFact and are without basis. 

In fact

NASA lost seven astronauts when the space shuttle Challenger exploded 73 seconds after launch at Cape Canaveral, Florida, on January 28, 1986, due to a booster engine failure. The conspiracy theory alleges that the crew members are alive and living in the U.S. has been circulating on the internet since at least 2015. Such conspiracies claim the Challenger disaster was a hoax planned to cause across-the-board trauma among the populace and that the lookalikes were the actual space shuttle crew. Snopes and PolitiFact have already debunked this claim.


PolitiFact notes that most of these lookalikes have distinct backgrounds and were in different places, professional occupations, and institutions before the event. For instance, the Facebook video falsely claims that astronaut Judith Arlene Resnik didn't change her name but became a law professor after the disaster. There is a different Judith Resnik that taught law at Yale and the University of Southern California (USC). However, Judith Arlene Resnik was studying and working in the electrical engineering sector to join NASA. Resnik, the law professor, wrote papers for law review publications in 1985. The astronaut Resnik was the second American woman on a space flight in 1984. There was no way the same person could have been performing two jobs at once in two different places, PolitiFact notes. Similar errors apply to Richard Scobee, Michael Smith, and Sharon McAuliffe. Furthermore, astronauts Ellison Onizuka and Ronald McNair's alleged doppelgangers are their actual brothers, Claude Onizuka and Carl McNair. In 2012, by holding Onizuka Science Day for students in native Hawaii, Claude Onizuka honored his brother, Ellison.


Finally, PolitiFact mentions it is improbable that the crew would be living openly, under the same names, and with no physical disguises for a significant national conspiracy that was allegedly planned. Snopes also concludes that some Challenger astronauts resembled people with similar names who were still alive after the incident; two Challenger astronauts looked like their brothers. One Challenger astronaut has no resemblance to the lookalike but just shares the same name. 


The verdict

The claim that the Challenger space shuttle crew members from 1986 are still alive and that the space missions are staged is unfounded. This fabricated narrative is based on a combination of baseless assumptions and lookalikes. Hence we mark this claim as false.

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