Armageddon sick of Shuttle hoaxes

By Phil Plait | March 10, 2008 9:43 am

My friend Kelsey asked me about some pictures she saw of the Shuttle in orbit. The pictures show the Shuttle being destroyed, and were claimed to have been taken by an Israeli spy satellite. She guessed they were from a movie, though.

She was right (she’s a space nerd after all, though she’d never admit it, so don’t tell her I said so). Here are the pix:

Click to embiggen. Can you guess the movie? It’s Armageddon, the suckiest suck that ever sucked. It’s not like that movie didn’t do enough damage when it came out, but for years it’s been making the rounds of teh intertoobs as an email meme. I first wrote about this back in 2003 (see the March 13 entry), when the pictures were first being circulated. And they’re still around! Amazing.

Anyway, if you see an astronomy or space picture that looks too good to be true, send ‘em to me (well, send a link) and I’ll see what I can do to sniff ‘em out.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Debunking, Humor, NASA, Skepticism

Comments (43)

  1. Yoshi_3up

    Hoaxes will never end.

  2. Mark Martin

    My favorite from this genre is the purported photo of Europe taken from Columbia on its final mission. It’s so incredibly transparent because, among other things, the angular field of view is equivalent to an altitude of roughly ten times the maximum attainable by the space shuttle, plus there’s not a single cloud over all of Europe or the Atlantic Ocean, and, the worst of the worst, all of the Atlantic’s bottom topography is visible. Last I knew, all those underwater mountains were… underwater.

  3. It’s Armageddon, the suckiest suck that ever sucked.

    That is some serious suckitude

  4. Dale

    Where’s Hoagland to tell us all that NASA is covering this up?

  5. Crux Australis

    Mark, where’d you see that photo? Sounds like a good laugh.

  6. Carey

    The shuttle is too high up in the picture to be burning up from atmospheric friction anyway, isn’t it?

  7. Makis Mcgee

    You’re obviously a fan of the Simpsons! Don’t forget that wondeful line that followed “The suckiest sucks that ever sucked.” It was, and I quote, “I gotta go, my damn weiner kids are listening…” HAHA!
    Anyway, it never ceases to amaze how insane some people choose to be when it comes to photos or the moon landing “hoax”. All hail the human mind and the ability to convince ourselves of the impossible.

  8. Mark Martin

    Here it is on Snopes: http://www.snopes.com/photos/space/sunset.asp

    It makes the rounds every so often.

  9. It, honestly, never ceases to amaze me what people will believe.

  10. Aerimus

    “Armageddon sick of Shuttle hoaxes”

    What’s this? I thought I was at Bad Astronomy, not Bad Paronomasia.

  11. Tom

    I have to agree! Armageddon is the suckiest suck that ever sucked.I’m still trying to recover from the brain damage it caused me.

  12. Ian

    …the worst of the worst, all of the Atlantic’s bottom topography is visible. Last I knew, all those underwater mountains were… underwater.

    It’s also plainly visible in Google Earth, which has always bothered me. I haven’t been able to find any reference explaining where that particular imagery comes from. Does anybody know?

  13. OtherRob

    What’s really making me sad is that I recognized the image before reading the title. Sigh….

  14. Thomas Siefert

    I saw the XXX version of that movie called I’mgonnagetiton, they sucked too :-)

  15. Sespetoxri

    Actually, what you’re seeing when you think you’re looking at the topography of the ocean floor is actually the water at the very top.

    See, at the bottom of the ocean there are a great number of mountains and trenches. Water, naturally, cannot occupy the same space as the mountains, so where there are mountains, the water is naturally higher in those places, in the shape of the mountain!

    So, you’re indirectly looking at the topography of the ocean floor by seeing the effect the mountains have on the top of the ocean. So, it’s, err, a toptopography… Rather, it’s a surface-topography… no, wait! It’s the ocean, so it’s a surfography! Radical!

    At some point I’ll make up, err, explain why you don’t see the trenches in the surfography.

  16. Jim Seymour

    I remember when I saw “Deep Impact” and thought, “Meh”.

    Then Armageddon came out and made me realize that “Deep Impact” was a masterpiece in comparison.

    Now, I’m actually quite fond of “Deep Impact”.

    Ah, the glory of lowering ones expectations…

  17. viggen

    Are you sure the pictures aren’t from “Fantastic Four:Rise of the Silver Surfer?” That’s another movie where a space shuttle is prominently destroyed by falling junk.

  18. Ian

    It’s like toast always landing butter-side down. Whenever something bad happens in space, the shuttle gets destroyed.

  19. Mark Martin

    Ianon:

    “It’s also plainly visible in Google Earth, which has always bothered me. I haven’t been able to find any reference explaining where that particular imagery comes from. Does anybody know?”

    It’s probably sonar data taken by oceanographic surveys.

  20. Mark Martin

    Ianon said:

    “It’s also plainly visible in Google Earth, which has always bothered me. I haven’t been able to find any reference explaining where that particular imagery comes from. Does anybody know?”

    It’s probably sonar data taken by oceanographic surveys.

  21. greg

    ugh that movie was terrible. the shuttle scene was the first in a loooooooong line of stupid scenes.

  22. MandyDax

    #1: The shuttle flies bass-ackwards (which you can’t tell from stills like this) and top down. This is to protect the cabin from debris.

    #2: There are stars in this picture. With the earth in the shot, there’s no way you’d be able to see them due to relative brightness.

    #3: There isn’t enough combustible fuel left in the shuttle by the time it’s in orbit to cause such an explosion.

    #4: If you saw the movie, either it’s been irreparably burned into your mind, or you’ve repressed the memory. Either way, seeing these images should cause a PTSD-type reaction, a flashback to the suckity suck that was this sucky movie that sucked so sucking hard.

  23. billsmithaz

    >It’s Armageddon, the suckiest suck that ever sucked.

    BA, you have, apparently, never seen The Core.

  24. MandyDax

    BA:

    It’s Armageddon, the suckiest suck that ever sucked.

    What about Expelled? Doesn’t that count as science fiction of the suckiest suck?

    Q: How much suck could a movie suck if a movie could suck suck?
    A: We now measure sci-fi movie suckitude in Armageddons (Arm). Of course, the whole of the movie Armageddon measures 1 Arm on this scale. Your average Sci-Fi Channel original movie is about 400-700 mArm, depending on whether Bruce Campbell is in it. Most movies with a black hole as a plot device are about 750 mArm, except for Disney’s The Black Hole, which only measured about 150 mArm until the final sequence, when it spiked at an amazing 2.3 Arm. Contact had a similar suckitude graph.

  25. Ian

    BA, you have, apparently, never seen The Core.

    Bzzt, wrong: http://www.badastronomy.com/bad/movies/thecore.html

  26. Sunshine was… disappointing.

  27. MandyDax says: “Disney’s The Black Hole measured about 150 mArm until the final sequence, when it spiked at an amazing 2.3 Arm. Contact had a similar suckitude graph.”

    What was the problem with “Contact?” I agree that if you’ve read the book, the ending of the movie seemed incredibly compressed, but it wasn’t bad, at least IMHO.

    – Jack

  28. MandyDax says: “The shuttle flies bass-ackwards (which you can’t tell from stills like this) and top down. This is to protect the cabin from debris.”

    That’s true during the orbital mission, but it has to fly top up/nose first (although with a large angle of attack) during reentry.

    – Jack

  29. billsmithaz

    @Ian: I stand (well, sit…) corrected.

    The fun thing about suckiness, though, is that it’s in the eye of the beholder. Despite the amazingly awful science in Armageddon, I was nearly able to turn my brain off and enjoy it in a purely testosterone-driven action movie sense. I think the presence of Liv Tyler had a lot to do with that.

    While I watched The Core, though, I could almost feel brain cells dying with each minute of inanity. I still weep a little inside when I think of it.

  30. A relative of mine forwarded that pic of the shuttle blowing up. According the story he had, the photo had been taken by an Israeli spy satellite. Problem was, it showed the explosion beginning in the back with the engines, whereas Columbia’s problem was with one of the wings. Once again, Snopes came to the rescue.

    I not only sent him the Snopes link, but everyone else on the various forwards that were attached to his email.

  31. Inertially Guided

    I dunno, at least The Core had some decent writing/acting in it. check out the Carl Sagan parody, who finally realises how idiotic he is as the nuke’s timer counts down to zero…

    “What the f**k am I doing?!”

    …of course, I also liked ‘unobtanium’, a great play on ‘adamantium’!

  32. Kol

    I was ok until, “…that looks too good to be true”, soured my stomach just before Endeavour’s launch.

    Probably just the energy drink I used so I could stay up for it. Still, those pics don’t belong with that statement. Someone with industrial grade stupidity might blow it out of proportion.

    The weapons grade idiots are a given.

  33. Koreman

    Some people do live in weird realities. I wonder if it is just ignorance. Maybe those people live in parallel universes that occasionally get mashed up with ours.

  34. TierOneGirl

    What do moviemakers have against the shuttle?

  35. Ae7flux

    Hi, I’m Francis and I’m a victim of Armageddon but I know that with the help of fellow sufferers like yourselves I will one day overcome this nightmare and go on to lead a normal productive life.

    If I ever get hold of a Tardis, forget Hitler, I’m going after Michael Bay.

  36. Kol

    @TierOneGirl
    “What do moviemakers have against the shuttle?”

    I don’t think movie makers have particular preferences as to what they can destroy. Take screenplays for example.

    Ripping up a shuttle is the same as picking at an itchy scab.

    Feel fortunate if you’ve only seen a shuttle fail in a work of fiction.
    BA’s pointing out an unfortunate fiction so you won’t have to watch the tripe for yourself.

    Of course, now, you should. Just to see.

    (sigh)

  37. Joe Meils

    Well, that’s just the sort of thing that WOULD happen, if you packed the cargo bay with napthalene and some kind of oxidizer…

    Yes, the movie sucked. But you have to admit the effects were reasonably good. (Considering the low budget of $15 million for the effects alone.) Imagine what a cool film could be made if they actually spent 1/10th of that money on a writer, and a few science advisors…

  38. Inertially Guided

    Of course, just when you thought Bay couldn’t beat Armageddon, he cam out with Pearl Harbor…

  39. StevoR

    Mark Martin wrote :

    “Last I knew, all those underwater mountains were… underwater.”

    Well that’s global warming in action for you! ;-)

  40. Ben

    I think this is for you, no review of Armageddon is better than this:

    http://www.agonybooth.com/recaps/Armageddon_1998.aspx

  41. Calli Arcale

    Inertially Guided:
    …of course, I also liked ‘unobtanium’, a great play on ‘adamantium’!

    Actually, it wasn’t a play on adamantium. Unobtainium has been in the vocabulary for decades — longer than adamantium, I think. Used in this sort of context, it was probably meant as self-deprecating humor. I doubt it was successful, though as I’ve never had the stomach to watch “The Core”, I don’t really know.

    For a full discussion of unobtainium, see Wikipedia’s entry on the subject.

  42. J

    You know its not hard to just make a fictional movie after these things occur to pacify the people desire for truth.
    I’m not saying in this case necessarily, but it seems like the notion, oh well it was in a movie so its obviously made up, isn’t a valid reason. If you want to be a true skeptic you can’t really count or discount anything.

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