Why Soviet Cosmonauts Carried a Gun to Space

For decades, the standard survival kit carried by Russian cosmonauts aboard the Soyuz spacecraft included a specially built gun and a few dozen rounds to defend against wild animals should the cosmonauts land in the Siberian wilderness. They were the only space-faring nation to arm their space travelers, and it did raise a few eyebrows. But the Soviets had their reasons.

Re-entry and landing is a difficult process because of the sheer amount of forces the re-entry vehicle is subjected to as it slams against the earth’s atmosphere. With a re-entry velocity of nearly 25,000 km per hour, even the slightest misfiring of the engines could change the trajectory that could result in the cosmonauts landing hundreds of miles off course. Much of Russia is desolate wilderness, from which rescue could take a few days. As the cosmonauts waited, they had to fend not only the cold but also fight off hostile bears and wolves.

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A cosmonaut fighting a bear. Image generated by DALL-E/OpenAI

Source: amusingplanet.com

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