For 20 years Russians were equipped with a triple-barreled gun with a swing-out machete for space missions.
The TP-82 pistol was included in the Soyuz Portable Emergency-Survival Kit after two cosmonauts crash-landed into a forest in Siberia in 1965. They struggled to hunt prey, build shelter, and send a distress signal and thus, the "space gun" was born to shoot rifle bullets, shotgun shells, and flares.
During flight, the gun is stowed in a metal canister and if all goes well, the canister is never opened, NBC News space analyst James Oberg reports. "At the end of the mission, after landing, the gun is usually presented as a gift to the Soyuz spacecraft commander," Oberg reports.
Astronomer Matija Cuk at Harvard University explains that the only difference between shooting a gun on Earth and in space is that the bullet will keep traveling forever. "The bullet will never stop, because the universe is expanding faster than the bullet can catch up with any serious amount of mass," Cuk told LiveScience.
Astronomer Peter Schultz at Brown University also notes that in space you could technically shoot yourself in the back.
"For example, while in orbit around a planet, because objects orbiting planets are actually in a constant state of free fall, you have to get the setup just right. You'd have to shoot horizontally at just the right altitude for the bullet to circle the planet and fall back to where it started (you)," Shultz told LiveScience.
Russia replaced the gun with the semi-automatic Makarov pistol because all the in-stock ammunition for the TP-82 had expired.
While the conjoined gun-machete no longer exists in the Soyuz portable emergency-survival kit, an individual gun and machete are still included.
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