Fact Check

Did a Nostradamus Prophecy Foretell a Space Shuttle Disaster in 2003?

As one Canadian student illustrated by accident, a combination of the mythos of a historical figure and abstract language can be convincing.

Published Feb 1, 2003

A Nostradamus prophecy foretold the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster.

In this example collected from the internet in 2003:

Nostradamus predicted the whole thing hundreds of years ago... read this:In the mission of the first blue star,
a child of the holy land among the seven shall perish,
as the ship descends heavens sky,
the lone star bescattered with wreckage.

Origins:   It didn't take long for someone to cook up another phony Nostradamus prophecy in the wake of a tragedy, this one supposedly foretelling the disaster that befell the Space Shuttle Columbia as it broke up over Texas during its re-entry on the morning of 1 February 2003, killing all seven astronauts aboard.

The Nostradamus prophecy that circulated widely immediately after the September 11 terrorist attacks on the USA was a fake, but that one had at least been created several years in advance of the events (by a Canadian student trying to illustrate how easily an important-sounding prophecy can be crafted through the use of abstract imagery) and was then mistakenly assumed to be a genuine interpretation of Nostradamus' writings.

The verse quoted above is a pure fabrication, however; it is not a translation or interpretation of anything Nostradamus wrote, and it was not created until after the morning of 1 February. The "first blue star" reference alludes to Payload Specialist Ilan Ramon, the first Israeli astronaut in space; the "lone star" tag could apply to either the flag of Texas (the "Lone Star" state) or the flag of Israel (which bears a blue Star of David). The shuttle's breaking up over the city of Palestine, Texas, with an Israeli astronaut aboard was an unfortunate coincidence.

David Mikkelson founded the site now known as snopes.com back in 1994.