In space circles there’s always been a time honoured myth that Soviet spacemen went into space armed and dangerous with grandpa’s finest 12 gauge shotgun. Well guess what? That crazy myth has been busted and found out to have a foundation in truth! The Russian Cosmonauts did indeed boldly go where no man has been before, all tooled up and ready to rumble.
Guns capable of wreaking immense damage and fragile spacecrafts filled with oxygen don’t really make for a good mix. So when writer James Simpson revealed that Russian cosmonauts did indeed carry shotguns in the great interplanetary void, and only stopped the practice in 2007, people naturally asked, “Why on earth would those crazy space cowboys do that?”
It’s a good question. A thinking person’s first reaction is to assume that there was something lurking in the cold, dark and remote corners of space that the Russian cosmonauts were afraid off.
Subsequently, before being blasted into orbit, these dudes in the strange suits chose to take a little extra precautions when it came to protecting themselves from any unfriendly extraterrestrials. Such as a bible and a gun for instance. Or in this case a very big gun. The sort that would make Elmer Fudd exclaim, “Thwat’s a weally wunderful wabbit exterminator you got thwere fwend.”
Alas, the truth is often stranger than fiction. And no, these Russian cosmonauts weren’t looking to rumble with their NASA counterparts either, they were tooled up because the weapons were part of a ‘survival kit’ which was designed to help if the crew’s craft veered off course during landing or take-off.
According to Simpson, Russian cosmonauts carried the TP-82 shotgun because there was a a chance they might land in a remote area and need to kill some bears.
“Having a gun inside a thin-walled spacecraft filled with oxygen sounds crazy but the Soviets had their reasons. Much of Russia is desolate wilderness. A single mishap during descent could strand cosmonauts in the middle of nowhere.”
The “space” gun, which had three barrels, also boasted a sharp blade which could be used as a machete in jungle areas, or as an axe to chop wood. Russian cosmonauts stopped carrying the shotgun to space in 2007, although they still carry a gunless version of the same survival kit, which presumably contains another method of dealing with those pesky bears that Vladimir Putin would approve of.
[Lead image via Yahoo.]