I’m not sure why this is a newsworthy issue, but there’s a news story about it linked from CNN today:
Space Station Crew Can Access Gun – Orlando News Story – WESH Orlando
Astronauts aboard the International Space Station apparently have access to a gun.
I’m not surprised. I always figured they had a weapon on board somewhere, either a handgun or something more exotic like a GyroJet rocket pistol.
There’s also a survey asking “Should the space station have a gun“. Right now it stands at 63% in favor and 37% against. I don’t know why 37% of the people feel that astronauts aren’t to be trusted with weapons, but for folks who think of firearms as Talismans of Evil I suppose no explanation is necessary. The wording of the question may also mislead some people who haven’t actually read the article into thinking that the ISS space station itself has a space laser gun attached (no doubt just like the one on the Death Star), which it doesn’t. At least not as far as you know.
The reason for having a gun aboard is a perfectly simple one:
Russian Cosmonauts carry a gun on their Soyuz space capsule, which is attached to the space station. Every spacecraft carries survival gear for crash landings, and the Russian Soyuz has a kit that includes the gun.
Unlike our own capsules, which were designed for ocean splashdown, Soyuz capsules actually set down on land, taking advantage of the huge wilderness areas of central Kazakhstan. That’s a big, lonely place. If a capsule set down outside the intended landing area, far from the waiting retrieval crews, the unlucky Cosmonaut aboard could very well need a gun to survive until he was rescued.
The article is mostly more sensational talk about dangerous rogue astronauts, etc. Even though it’s not very likely, I wouldn’t be surprised if that were a consideration among the Russians. They have more experience with long-term spaceflight than we do and at least one alleged instance of unstable astronauts. (They also have some history of real armed space stations, for that matter, which taken all together is not entirely comforting.)