It's been a while since I have read Stranger in a Strange Land, but was the

cause or nature of the deaths of the Envoy's crew revealed?

2 Answers 2


Near the end of chapter 4 Ben tells Jill one part of the story that he got from someone who read the Envoy log.

Dr. Ward Smith delivered his wife of child by Caesarian section - and she died on the table. He seems to have worn his horns complacently until then. But what he did next shows that he knew the score; with the same scalpel he cut Captain Brant's throat - then he cut his own.

Other than that, I don't think how they died was specifically mentioned. It is clear from one report by the Champion:

Rocket Ship Envoy located. No survivors.

That all of the Envoy's original crew was dead.

  • Although at least one of the five other crew members obviously lived long enough to update the log.
    – Plutor
    Mar 26, 2012 at 16:58
  • 1
    Yes, obviously :-) There's clearly more to the story but I don't think that it was relevant to the novel and so Heinlein just didn't bother to include it. These three specific members of the crew were relevant though. Ben explains that legally, the three of them were all Mike's parents. Mar 26, 2012 at 17:05
  • 1
    I agree that it was not really relevant in the context of the work; I was just curious. I thought maybe I had missed a reference outside of the work in "The Cat Who Walks Through Walls" or "The Number of the Beast". Mar 26, 2012 at 18:01
  • As I recall, there was mention of one of the crew following one of the immature Martians down a gully. The Martian came back, the crewman was never seen again. It's implied that he did something to piss off the Martian.
    – Joe L.
    Aug 5, 2014 at 22:42
  • I was mistaken. This event happened on the the mission that came back with Mike.
    – Joe L.
    Aug 5, 2014 at 23:37

There were 8 people on the Envoy, the original mission (part one, ch I):

Captain Michael Brant, commanding—pilot, astrogator, relief cook, relief photographer, rocketry engineer;

Dr. Winifred Coburn Brant, forty-one, semantician, practical nurse, stores officer, historian;

Mr. Francis X. Seeney, twenty-eight, executive officer, second pilot, astrogator, astrophysicist, photographer;

Dr. Olga Kvalic Seeney, twenty-nine, cook, biochemist, hydroponicist;

Dr. Ward Smith, forty-five, physician and surgeon, biologist;

Dr. Mary Jane Lyle Smith, twenty-six, atomics engineer, electronics and power technician;

Mr. Sergei Rimsky, thirty-five, electronics engineer, chemical engineer, practical machinist and instrumentation man, cryologist;

Mrs. Eleanora Alvarez Rimsky, thirty-two, geologist and selenologist, hydroponicist.

Three of them are accounted for (part I, ch IV):

“It’s a nasty story. I got that much before my informant sobered up. Dr. Ward Smith delivered his wife by Caesarean section—and she died on the table. What he did next shows that he knew the score; with the same scalpel he cut Captain Brant’s throat—then his own. Sorry, hon.”

Jill shivered. “I’m a nurse. I’m immune to such things.”

“You’re a liar and I love you for it. I was on police beat three years, Jill; I never got hardened to it.”

“What happened to the others?”

“If we don’t break the bureaucrats loose from that log, we’ll never know—and I am a starry-eyed newsboy who thinks we should. Secrecy begets tyranny.”

As far as I can tell, there's no further mention of the other five crewmembers. Not a very satisfactory answer, but there it is. Unless Heinlien answered in in some other venue, the fate of the rest of the Envoy's crew remains unknown.

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