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Gun Control in Space?:
The story is here.
FantasiaWHT:
Aside from the possibility of homicide...

Isn't any bullet that ruptures the outer skin of a spacecraft going to spell death for every person on board?
2.14.2008 12:13pm
Dan Hamilton:
No they have patches for that. Just like a small rock hitting the station. You have to patch the hole.
2.14.2008 12:18pm
Bruce:
Dan, that's not the way it works in the movies.

The title of this post immediately made me think of the Muppets.
2.14.2008 12:22pm
Gregory Conen (mail):
Well, I'm not sure how important it is. How likely are they to need the survival kit? All space accidents I've heard of end in deaths before they hit the ground, or are recovered well before needing a long-term survival kit. Given that, taking a gun (indeed a survival kit at all) into orbit seems like an expensive waste of weight.
2.14.2008 12:33pm
OrinKerr:
2.14.2008 12:38pm
More importantly...:
(1) The gun is apparently part of a standing kit on the Russian's part of the orbital station: the expensive waste of mass is now an irrelevant sunk cost.

(2) As the story points out, if someone loses it up there and decides to end it all for themselves and their fellow 'nauts, the gun isn't the easiest way it do so.

(3) I don't think they included a handgun/small carbine for its "long-term survival" use, unless you consider defending yourself from hostiles after crashing in unfriendly territory to fall within that term's meaning.
2.14.2008 12:52pm
New World Dan (www):
I'd think a taser would be a lot safer and more appropriate. Maybe... "HAL... don't tase me, bro." "I'm sorry Dave"
2.14.2008 12:53pm
CDU (mail) (www):
All space accidents I've heard of end in deaths before they hit the ground, or are recovered well before needing a long-term survival kit.


Soyuz 5: The service module failed to separate on command and remained attached until the connecting struts broke or burned during reentry. The spacecraft landed far off course in the Ural mountains rather than Kazakhstan, where local temperatures were -38 Celsius. Cosmonaut Boris Volynov had to hike several kilometers to a nearby home.

Soyuz 18a (the April 5th anomaly): The second stage of the Soyuz rocket fails to separate from the third and pulls the booster far enough off course that the launch escape system activates. The spacecraft parachutes to earth in a remote area of southern Siberia. Due to weather, high altitude and terrain, cosmonauts Vasili Lazarev and Oleg Makarov aren't able to be rescued until the following day.

I don't know about you, but given this experience I definitely want a survival kit if I'm going into space.
2.14.2008 12:58pm
Daryl Herbert (www):
It shows just how knee-jerk the gun control advocates are.

Sure, sure, a crazy astronaut could flip a few switches and doom the entire space station, or subtly sabotage an individual's equipment, or do a million other things.

But a gun is a GUN and that's SCARY! OH NOES.

We just have to remind gun control advocates that astronauts work for THE GOVERNMENT, so it's okay for them to have guns.

Side note: what kind of gun is it?

I'm guessing it's a subcompact semiautomatic, chambered in .380 or 9mm (or, for the Russkies, 9x18mm Makarov) with Glaser safety slugs. Enough to drop an astronaut at close range, hopefully not enough to poke a hole in the side.

But if menacing aliens show up, the astronauts will likely find themselves woefully underarmed.
2.14.2008 12:59pm
Kevin P. (mail):
If astronauts can't be trusted with a gun, they shouldn't be trusted to be on a spacecraft either.
2.14.2008 1:04pm
FantasiaWHT:
Dan, assuming the astronauts don't have pressure suits on at the time, how fast does air escape and the pressure drop? Is there enough time to patch it? I'm curious.
2.14.2008 1:12pm
Waldensian (mail):

Soyuz 18a (the April 5th anomaly): The second stage of the Soyuz rocket fails to separate from the third and pulls the booster far enough off course that the launch escape system activates. The spacecraft parachutes to earth in a remote area of southern Siberia. Due to weather, high altitude and terrain, cosmonauts Vasili Lazarev and Oleg Makarov aren't able to be rescued until the following day.

I read a fascinating article about this. IIRC, the cosmonauts endured absolutely insane G forces during this event, with a nasty landing to boot. When they were finally located and interviewed for TV, they sort of mumbled into their hands to hide the fact that their teeth were shattered.

The same story said it was not uncommon for cosmonauts to wait lengthy periods of time in the middle of nowhere, even after normal missions, due to weather that kept the retrieval helicopters grounded.

For those who think the gun is a bad idea: reminds me of the time, just after 9/11, when I watched the security screener take a nail clipper from the PILOT of a small plane. He was flying ALONE, to boot.
2.14.2008 1:21pm
Mike M. (mail):
As other posters have mentioned, there have been several instances of Soyuz capsules landing off-course. This is particularly possible with the Space Station, as one of the functions of the Soyuz capsule is to serve as a lifeboat.

The firearm in question, btw, is a combination gun. Shotgun barrel and rifle barrel.

BTW, there is plenty of time to patch small holes. But the theory is junior-year Aerospace Engineering.
2.14.2008 1:27pm
rarango (mail):
Anybody who has watched the Alien series knows exactly why astronauts would be armed. That survival stuff is just a Rovian plot to hide the existence of space aliens.
2.14.2008 1:29pm
A (mail):
Don't forget where the Soyuz capsules lad, too. There's wolves on the Steppes, big ones, with nasty pointy teeth. heck, I bet dollars to donuts there was shark repellent on the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo capsules.
2.14.2008 1:41pm
OrinKerr:
BTW, there is plenty of time to patch small holes. But the theory is junior-year Aerospace Engineering.

I'd be interested in hearing it, actually. If you know the area of the hole and the volume of the cabin, then it's easy to calculate the pressure in the cabin over time. Is the idea that there would be time in the case of the space station because the internal volume is high, and a hole from a bullet would stay small? It's that last assumption that I'm not entirely confident about.
2.14.2008 2:11pm
David W. Hess (mail):
Dan, assuming the astronauts don't have pressure suits on at the time, how fast does air escape and the pressure drop? Is there enough time to patch it? I'm curious.

Assuming you can get to the hole, you have plenty of time. In the worst case, you are talking about 14.7 PSI (half of that in reality for a space station?) through a hole less then half an inch across. You can safely plug that with the palm of your hand while another crew member finds the patches or if desperate, duct tape.

I tested this scenario once with a vacuum chamber at work.
2.14.2008 2:14pm
Jim at FSU (mail):
It isn't like the spacecraft is some kind of preschoolers recreation area. It is a seriously dangerous place where carelessness or failure to notice and remedy an unexpected problem (like a puncture from orbiting debris) represents a severe risk to everyone's lives. Anyone who lapses into psychosis or active malice will not require weapons put the crew in danger.

We should all begin with the notion that these are highly trained and highly disciplined people who are subjected to intense scrutiny and years of service before being put in charge of billions of dollars of equipment. Crazy behavior is the exception, not the rule.

Also, a soft lead bullet travelling at 300 m/s is a minimal risk to the space station. There are millions of far more energetic objects in orbit with the station. Although not publicized much, collisions and subsequent leaks do happen and the astronauts have to detect them and then go out in a space suit to find them and repair them.
2.14.2008 2:20pm
Virginian:
Daryl Herbert,

People make the same ridiculous arguments against arming airline pilots...that a pilot might go insane and start shooting people. As if without the gun a pilot had no other means at his disposal to kill a whole bunch of people.
2.14.2008 2:31pm
Jim at FSU (mail):
And yes, I have to concur with David Hess's excellent point. The sucking capabilities of space vacuuum are greatly exaggerated thanks to Hollywood. 15 psi coming through a .35 inch diameter hole is a very modest force. Anyone can experience this by plugging a vacuum line on your car with your finger while it is idling (about 1/3rd of atmospheric pressure, 1/6th an atmosphere more difference than between the .5 bar space station and the vacuum outside it).

Remember that your body is designed to maintain an internal pressure of blood around 10-20 percent greater than atmospheric pressure so you wouldn't just tear open when your fingertip is exposed to vacuum any more than mountain climbers or jet pilots explode at fractional atmospheric pressures.
2.14.2008 2:33pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
By making an issue over a gun in a survival kit, we tell the astronauts that we don't trust them. That's bad for their morale. It's part of the belief that somehow guns actually induce otherwise normal people to become violent and deadly. Combat is pretty stressful too, yet we trust people to have and use guns. Is there a big problem with soldiers killing their comrades with their guns? I'll bet the astronauts are hardly aware of the gun in the survival kit. It's just another emergency tool.

It reminds of the way people who have security clearance get treated these days. Even after a highly intrusive vetting, you still get treated as if you are a risk. After a while you say to yourself, "I don't need this, I'll just get another job." In this way the government loses valuable staff. My philosophy: find good people, vet them and then trust them and make sure they know you trust them. This is how you build a loyal team.
2.14.2008 2:35pm
Kemp:
OrinKerr said:
and a hole from a bullet would stay small? It's that last assumption that I'm not entirely confident about.

Why not? I'm assuming the capsule is not made of something like glass that would shatter around the bullet hole. The difference in pressure would only be about 1 atm, or about 14.7psi right? I'm even if it is significantly higher, it's not a whole heck of a lot of pressure. The hull is probably designed to really take a beating. It would be no worse than punching a pinhole in a car tire.

My intuition tells me that, provided the material is something that doesn't shatter when hit with a bullet, it's not going to cause failure of the material around the hole. There just won't be enough pressure to force that much air out.
2.14.2008 2:37pm
Jim at FSU (mail):
Holes will not grow bigger. It would be profoundly poor engineering to not make a spacecraft extremely resistant to punctures, especially one designed to orbit around a planet that is positively swimming in satellite debris.

This is not a small problem by the way. Debris impacts damage many satellites every year. Any damaged satellite that doesn't subsequently plummet out of orbit gets added to that debris. This has been going on for decades.
2.14.2008 2:59pm
MDJD2B (mail):
Aren't the people with experience, who plan these missions and the TOE, better equipped than we to decide what should be on the craft? Nobody on these crafts is a passenger. They are all astronauts/cosmonauts, who are employed by the craft owner to do certain tasks, and the craft owner can decide with them what equipment they need to carry aboard.
2.14.2008 3:00pm
Dennis Nicholls (mail):
Most military pilots have a small survival kit built into their ejection seat. The .22 LR AR-7 collapsable rifle was designed specifically for this kit. It can be used to hunt small game or fight off the bad guys if needed. I read a lot about astronaut training and they get lots of survival training in case they land by accident someplace like the middle of the Brazilian rain forest.
2.14.2008 3:04pm
Brooks Lyman (mail):
Kemp -

I suspect that you are right - spacecraft are probably made of metal - aluminum or titanium - or fiber-reinforced composite (plastic) like some aircraft. A small hole (even a ragged hole) punched in such material will not rip and cause explosive decompression. It'll just leak.

Question for physicists or astronauts: will the hiss of the air leak be audible from inside the spacecraft?.

Granted, that if a large meteorite blew a big hole in the hull or managed a glancing blow along a welded or riveted seam, that all bets might be off....
2.14.2008 3:15pm
Happyshooter:
America spent millions on designing the gyrojet recoiless pistol, the Soviets gave their guys a gun and told them to brace themselves when they shoot.
2.14.2008 3:21pm
DG:
Aside from issues with Aliens and survival, you may also have issues with Bond Villains attempting to launch biological agents - I'm think Hugo Drax. How would you stop Jaws without some sort of firearm?

In all seriousness, its bizarre that this is even considered news. It would be highly unusual for military pilots to fly without a firearm for survival purposes. The press is really out of touch on this. That Jim Oberg would write this shows that we have the wrong kind of people working at NASA and involved with the US space program - risk averse weenies. We'll never reach the high frontier with those guys in charge.
2.14.2008 3:30pm
pete (mail) (www):

Combat is pretty stressful too, yet we trust people to have and use guns. Is there a big problem with soldiers killing their comrades with their guns? I'll bet the astronauts are hardly aware of the gun in the survival kit.


And aren't almost all astronauts military officers to begin with? They should at least be a little bit used to being around guns without shooting everything in sight. Yes we trust them to fly a giant missle, but don't let them near a gun or they might go crazy and start shooting everything!
2.14.2008 3:30pm
steveH (mail):
Too bad for the snark, but "America" didn't spend millions of anything on developing the Gyrojet. Two individuals worked together to develop the idea.

And they weren't looking at using them in space, but dealing with the problem of conventional firearms cost, weight, and recoil.

It failed in the marketplace because its deficits outweighed its benefits.
2.14.2008 3:37pm
Steve P. (mail):
I think the issue is not the guns in survival kits that go with the astronauts when they land (which strikes me as a good idea), but rather a 'permanent' gun that stays aboard the space station.

If the primary purpose of a gun aboard a space station is for self-defense, but all astronauts have equal access to it, isn't it counter-productive? I envision the situation of astronaut A getting pissed at astronaut B and going to get the gun a little more readily than astronaut B going for the gun to protect him/herself from a wrench-wielding astronaut A.

Well, really, I have a hard time envisioning either scenario, outside of Hollywood. But this isn't even much ado about nothing, since the 'much ado' in this situation is one blogger.
2.14.2008 3:56pm
CDU (mail) (www):
I think the issue is not the guns in survival kits that go with the astronauts when they land (which strikes me as a good idea), but rather a 'permanent' gun that stays aboard the space station.
There isn't a 'permanent' gun aboard the space station, just the one in the survival kit. So where's the issue?
2.14.2008 4:04pm
Mike M. (mail):
Several points here...

As far as the rate of leakage goes, it can be modeled as a rocket nozzle with only a convergent section (which means that the flow cannot go supersonic). I found some good theory online at http://www.nakka-rocketry.net/th_nozz.html

Figure out the flow for a 0.3 square inch hole at M=1.0 and sea level conditions for total pressure and density...my back-of-the envelope calculations indicate a mass flow rate of .000027 lbs/sec (yes, I know it should be slugs/sec - let's not freak the non-engineers). It's a SMALL hole, as these things go.

As to propagation of damage, it's relatively unlikely, especially as the hole is so small. Low stress.

Finally, the Gyrojet was a private venture. No tax money involved in development. Besides, this is supposed to be a survival gun.
2.14.2008 4:08pm
Gregory Conen (mail):
I know it's a sunk cost now, I'm just commenting on how it got up there in the first place. Getting rid of it now would probably be more expensive pointlessness. Plus, the chance for astronaut insanity, along with the multiple other ways one astronaut could kill the whole crew, is more of an argument for it than against it.

Waiting several days for rescue doesn't require a gun, unless you're attacked. It requires water and/or warmth, maybe with some rations (which need to be up there anyway). Hunting for food is in the weeks to months situation.

Unlike military pilots, self-defense is not a good reason, either. A military pilot has reason to expect to go down in hostile territory, and have to fight off attackers. I don't know that a cosmo/astronaut will be attacked, wherever they go down. Maybe a few places, but not that many.

If they need a quick suicide, I would think a poison pill would be lighter and easier.
2.14.2008 4:11pm
Steve P. (mail):
There isn't a 'permanent' gun aboard the space station, just the one in the survival kit. So where's the issue?

It is permanent in the sense that there is always one Soyuz space craft (with a survival kit) attached to the space station at any given time.

You're right — I was misinterpreting the story. Since the entire purpose of the Soyuz is to act as a lifeboat if things go wrong and the astronauts need to suddenly return to Earth, the gun seems like a worthwhile addition.
2.14.2008 4:17pm
gattsuru (mail) (www):
I'm guessing it's a subcompact semiautomatic, chambered in .380 or 9mm (or, for the Russkies, 9x18mm Makarov) with Glaser safety slugs. Enough to drop an astronaut at close range, hopefully not enough to poke a hole in the side.


It's a TP-82, if it was brought up before 2007. That one would leave some pretty decent-sized holes in the wall if you used the shotgun or rifle options, but it did have lighter ammunition offerings.

The point's not for use in space, ideally, so much as if you land a few hundred miles off site, you'd need some weapons. The weaker ammo would be useful either place, though.

More recently, Russians have just gone up with the traditional pistol.
2.14.2008 4:25pm
gattsuru (mail) (www):
Waiting several days for rescue doesn't require a gun, unless you're attacked. It requires water and/or warmth, maybe with some rations (which need to be up there anyway). Hunting for food is in the weeks to months situation.


There are a lot of places with hostile things in this world. Ignoring for now the number of places where it would be politically ideal for a crashed astronaut to have 'unfortunately died during reentry' and coincidentally progress that nations spaceflight program, there are also just places with mean animals. Bears, a lot of safari animals, anything like that, may not be likely to get in your way, but it's is known to happen.
2.14.2008 4:43pm
Tony Tutins (mail):
I can't resist quoting the survival kit contents from Dr. Strangelove:

1 .45 automatic.
2 boxes of ammunition.
4 days' concentrated emergency rations.
1 drug issue containing antibiotics, morphine, vitamin pills, pep pills, sleeping pills, tranquilizer pills.
1 miniature combination Russian phrase book and Bible.
100 dollars in rubles.
100 dollars in gold.
9 packs of chewing gum.
1 issue of prophylactics.
3 lipsticks.
3 pairs of nylon stockings.

"A fella could have a pretty good weekend in Vegas with all that stuff."
2.14.2008 4:49pm
Elmer:
The issue is not defense against bears or psycho astronauts, nor one of eating bunnies till rescued. The issue is symbolism. The Space Station is a symbol of the peaceful cooperation of nations. Those who really care for that symbol find guns to be nasty symbols. The gun needs to go to make some people feel better.
2.14.2008 5:01pm
Bruce:

Remember that your body is designed to maintain an internal pressure of blood around 10-20 percent greater than atmospheric pressure so you wouldn't just tear open when your fingertip is exposed to vacuum any more than mountain climbers or jet pilots explode at fractional atmospheric pressures.


Again, this is contradicted by numerous Hollywood movies, where people explode in vacuums all the time. Only one (2001: A Space Odyssey) gets it wrong.
2.14.2008 5:17pm
Gregory Conen (mail):
@gattsuru: I'm not saying there's no risk, but that the risk in minimal. It's unlikely the _nauts will be out wandering around, and any vessel that survives reentry would probably make a decent shelter.

Political violence is possible, but the portion of the area of the earth where it's likely is fairly small. Keeping in mind also that the 'host' country could probably insist on keeping the landing craft anyway.

Perhaps a better solution would a 12-gauge of some kind that could also launch flares. Flares WOULD be useful in a number of rescue situations. I don't know enough about guns to know if that's practical or not.
2.14.2008 5:38pm
gattsuru (mail) (www):
Political violence is possible, but the portion of the area of the earth where it's likely is fairly small. Keeping in mind also that the 'host' country could probably insist on keeping the landing craft anyway.

Most of China and Africa is small? Hell, until recently I'd expect that to happen if they landed in western Europe or America -- even if you're more advanced technologically than a country you don't like, it never hurts to have incredibly detailed information about how much more advanced you are.

The host country would get the landing craft, but typically those aren't nearly as valuable as in-depth understanding of what each component is meant to do, how to enact in-flight repairs, and the workings of the other 99% of the craft that never made it into space in the first place.

I don't know if you'd want to shelter in a crashed craft. The outside would be superheated, the inside includes some fairly toxic components and (if they crashed before intended) probably some highly compressed tanks no longer performing at spec. Either way, there's no way to be sure you didn't land in the middle of moose mating season ground zero.

As for Flare Guns, the flare itself is a pretty effective weapon, which is why flare guns are pretty heavily regulated in some countries. The old TP-82 was supposed to be capable of such a thing, but the rather eccentric ammo and comparable weight to a modern light-weight semiautomatic pistol or rifle and separate flare gun.
2.14.2008 6:03pm
Gregory Conen (mail):
Hell, if flare guns are effective, just use that and be done. They don't need to be able to invade Russia or anything.
2.14.2008 6:29pm
Jim at FSU (mail):

Question for physicists or astronauts: will the hiss of the air leak be audible from inside the spacecraft?.


I believe that the first sign should be ear popping due to the slow pressure drop. I suppose the next sign would be increased difficulty concentrating as oxygen content decreases. But I am 99 percent certain there are alarms in each compartment that warn of dropping pressure. ISS had a leak a couple of years back that they spent days finding and fixing. I seem to remember a combination of alarms and ear popping as the cues that there was a hole in the body.
2.14.2008 6:42pm
gattsuru (mail) (www):
Hell, if flare guns are effective, just use that and be done. They don't need to be able to invade Russia or anything.


Flare gun usages as a weapon tends to be recognized as rather cruel. It's also extremely messy, and not something you want to be used in space or near a leaking O2 tank.
2.14.2008 6:50pm
Waldensian (mail):

Perhaps a better solution would a 12-gauge of some kind that could also launch flares. Flares WOULD be useful in a number of rescue situations. I don't know enough about guns to know if that's practical or not.

No problem.
2.14.2008 7:02pm
Doc W (mail):
If anyone's still interested, Bernoulli's equation says that the escape speed into a vacuum would be approximately equal to the speed of sound, which makes sense since it is also roughly the speed of molecules. This would be, say, 350 m/sec. Given a hole of 5 square centimeters area, most of the air in a volume of 10 cubic meters would be evacuated in about a minute. A one square centimeter hole would take 5 minutes to do the same.
2.14.2008 7:27pm
cardinalfang (mail):
In 1965, Voshkod 2, returning from the first spacewalk, landed hundreds of miles off course, and Belyayev and Leonov spent the night holding the broken hatch shut while wolves circled the capsule. Given that history, and the fact that most of the planet's land mass is untamed, the gun makes a lot of sense.

The Mercury capsule, BTW, contained a survival knife that was hard enough and sharp enough to cut through the titanium skin of the capsule if necessary. Pretty damn dangerous, if you ask me.
2.14.2008 11:13pm
Gregory Conen (mail):
@cardinalfang: I was unaware of the Voshkod 2 incident, though that seems like unusual behavior for wolves. A flare gun should do a job for driving wolves off, though.

@gattsuru: If it's animals, few people will care (provided it was self defense). Plus, they probably don't have to actually hit the animal to scare it off with a flare gun. If it's humans, well, "this regrettable incident was caused by unanticipated aggression against the astronauts. They were forced to defend themselves with available equipment, namely the flare gun." It's not like they're soldiers; if civilians defend themselves by cruel but necessary means, the aggressors deserve no sympathy.

Still, flares would be bad for on board activities, you're right.
2.15.2008 12:54am
Inebriated Arsonist:
Elmer:

The issue is not defense against bears or psycho astronauts, nor one of eating bunnies till rescued. The issue is symbolism. The Space Station is a symbol of the peaceful cooperation of nations. Those who really care for that symbol find guns to be nasty symbols. The gun needs to go to make some people feel better.


I hope that your post was meant in jest, rather than seriously suggest that some sort of symbolic gun control measure should take precedence over the safety of the men manning the space station. In light of past experiences where Russian crews were forced to defend themselves, practicality dictates that the gun stays.

Gregory Conen:
I was unaware of the Voshkod 2 incident, though that seems like unusual behavior for wolves. A flare gun should do a job for driving wolves off, though.


The Kazakh Steppe, where the designated landing zone for the Soyuz craft is located, has one of the largest wolf populations in the world. With the widespread hunting of the native antelope, the wolves have been deprived of their primary prey and have turned to other sources of food to sustain themselves. I would not put it past a hungry pack to avail themselves of a meal, especially considering that previous cosmonauts found out the hard way that wild animals can most certainly present a mortal danger. That's assuming the Soyuz capsule manages to land in the correct area, so there's also the danger of bears in other areas of the Western Siberian wilderness.

As for using a flare gun for self defense, I wouldn't recommend that at all. Accuracy tends to be poor, there's no guarantee that a raging animal would be scared off permanently and having burning magnesium around flammable materials is rather dangerous. Best to stick with the pistol or survival rifle/shotgun.
2.15.2008 2:28am
Cro (mail):
It seems to me that a crazy astronaut has plenty of ways to kill people without using a firearm. He could crash a shuttle into the station, for instance. There's a million ways to make things go wrong. We have to trust these people already. A gun is just another tool.
2.15.2008 7:57am
Happyshooter:
Too bad for the snark, but "America" didn't spend millions of anything on developing the Gyrojet. Two individuals worked together to develop the idea.

I just looked it up. You are right, I am wrong. It was invented by private inventors, and the army and air force tested it and decided not to buy.

I did read a cool story by a recon man in Vietnam who took a privately owned pistol, he really lied the low noise and felt the low speed at close range was not an issue.
2.15.2008 8:42am
Virginian:
Inebriated Arsonist,

For people like Elmer, symbolic gun control measures ALWAYS take precedence over safety and security.
2.15.2008 9:01am
markm (mail):
American manned space missions are supposed to end either in parachuting into the ocean or a controlled landing on a runway. Russian missions end, by design, with parachuting into the wilderness. Considering Siberian weather and the lesser resources the Russians can afford for cosmonaut retrieval, they'd better be prepared to survive a few days in that environment. There are a few items I'd rank higher in priority for a Siberian survival kit than a gun - a knife, matches, blankets, a few first aid items - but the gun would definitely be on the list.

Flare guns are single-shot weapons with large, heavy ammunition. They aren't great for fighting off wolves, and they are useless for hunting. If you could kill a rabbit with a flare, I'd expect the meat to wind up too burned and chemical-tainted to be edible. (In a survival situation, you hunt small game like rabbits before bigger animals like deer. The deer can evade you for longer than you can go hungry and keep functioning...) So a lightweight survival kit will probably carry a .22 handgun or folding rifle, since it drops small game without spoiling the meat and you get a lot of rounds per pound of ammunition. A .22 isn't the best weapon for wolves, but if you aim right it will kill any that are too stupid to be scared off. If there's weight to spare, a .22 and a flare gun makes more sense than just a flare gun with a few more flares.
2.15.2008 12:17pm
Joshua:
Virginian and Inebriated Arsonist: The way I read Elmer's post, he's not defending symbolic gun control aboard the space station (or aboard spacecraft docked there), but rather he's backhandedly bashing the gun critics in this story as pacifists scared of "nasty symbols".

Unless/until Elmer himself chimes in again though, I'll leave it to you to decide for yourselves. Here's his quote again, with the "punch lines" in bold:
The issue is not defense against bears or psycho astronauts, nor one of eating bunnies till rescued. The issue is symbolism. The Space Station is a symbol of the peaceful cooperation of nations. Those who really care for that symbol find guns to be nasty symbols. The gun needs to go to make some people feel better.
2.15.2008 7:33pm
Elmer:
Point to Joshua. Ditching the gun wouldn't make me feel better. The pacifist label is unfair, though. I know one who is fine with guns as tools.

This is the second time I've been mistaken for my own strawman. Serves me right, I suppose.

Question though: is the Space Station a sensible scientific enterprise, or an orbiting metaphor?
2.16.2008 3:43am