Home Archive Space Shuttle Columbia Explosion Photos Hoax

Space Shuttle Columbia Explosion Photos Hoax

by Brett M. Christensen

Email claims that attached photographs depict the explosion of the space shuttle Columbia taken from an Israeli satellite


Subject: Shuttle Columbia Explosion Photos

Shuttle explosion from Israeli satellite

These pictures were taken when the Columbia disaster occurred and just now are being circulated.

The following pictures are photos taken of the Columbia explosion from an Israeli satellite in space.

They are sequential pictures of the Shuttle Explosion, taken from an Israeli Satellite in space. They were taken….obviously,just as the Shuttle began to explode over the Earth.


Challenger Challenger Challenger Challenger Space ship

Detailed Analysis:
This email claims that photographs accompanying the message show the destruction of the space shuttle Columbia. The sequence of images supposedly depicts the progress of a catastrophic explosion that ripped Columbia to pieces. According to the message, the photographs were taken from an Israeli satellite “just as the Shuttle began to explode over the Earth”.

However, the claims in the message are untrue. The images are actually taken from a sequence in the 1998 disaster movie Armageddon in which the shuttle Atlantis is destroyed in space by a shower of asteroids. Those who have seen the movie may recall seeing the shuttle explosion sequence near the beginning of the film. In fact, a glimpse of the sequence can even be seen in one of the film’s trailers.

Versions of the hoax message began circulating soon after the loss of Columbia on February 1st 2003. On its website, the Columbia Accident Investigation Board (CAIB) notes that it is “aware that a number of fabricated, altered or otherwise falsified photographs have been circulating on the Internet”.

Even if the true origin of the images was unknown, the claims that they depict the destruction of Columbia can easily be proved false. The images clearly show that the shuttle is still in orbit around the earth when the destruction occurs. However, Columbia was well into the Earth’s atmosphere when it was destroyed. Moreover, Columbia did not explode as shown in the pictures but instead disintegrated over several minutes. Debris from the shuttle came to ground over a large area of the United States. If Columbia had exploded in orbit as shown in the images, no debris would have made it back to the planet surface.

What’s more, the claim that a satellite just happened to be in exactly the correct position and alignment to gain such clear images of the shuttle’s demise is probably even less believable than the highly improbable plot of “Armageddon”.

This foolish hoax dishonours the memory of the seven courageous astronauts who lost their lives in the Columbia disaster. Please do not forward it.

Last updated: 27th January 2010
First published: 23rd August 2006
By Brett M. Christensen
About Hoax-Slayer

IMDb: Armageddon (1998)
CAIB – Photos
Armageddon: Full Trailer
Wikipedia: Space Shuttle Columbia disaster

Importance Notice

After considerable thought and with an ache in my heart, I have decided that the time has come to close down the Hoax-Slayer website.

These days, the site does not generate enough revenue to cover expenses, and I do not have the financial resources to sustain it going forward.

Moreover, I now work long hours in a full-time and physically taxing job, so maintaining and managing the website and publishing new material has become difficult for me.

And finally, after 18 years of writing about scams and hoaxes, I feel that it is time for me to take my fingers off the keyboard and focus on other projects and pastimes.

When I first started Hoax-Slayer, I never dreamed that I would still be working on the project all these years later or that it would become such an important part of my life. It's been a fantastic and engaging experience and one that I will always treasure.

I hope that my work over the years has helped to make the Internet a little safer and thwarted the activities of at least a few scammers and malicious pranksters.

A Big Thank You

I would also like to thank all of those wonderful people who have supported the project by sharing information from the site, contributing examples of scams and hoaxes, offering suggestions, donating funds, or helping behind the scenes.

I would especially like to thank David White for his tireless contribution to the Hoax-Slayer Facebook Page over many years. David's support has been invaluable, and I can not thank him enough.

Closing Date

Hoax-Slayer will still be around for a few weeks while I wind things down. The site will go offline on May 31, 2021. While I will not be publishing any new posts, you can still access existing material on the site until the date of closure.

Thank you, one and all!

Brett Christensen,