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Here’s What Would Happen If You Fired A Gun In Space
By Aaron Homer
History - Science
Have you ever wondered what would happen if you took a gun into the vacuum of space and fired it? As it turns out, we don’t need to conduct the experiment literally — what we already know about guns, physics, and space can tell us the answer.
The lack of oxygen needed for combustion may lead you to believe that bullets couldn’t be propelled in space, but modern ammunition contains its own oxidizer, so guns can still work. However, since there is no air in space to carry sound waves, you would never hear the explosion, and since gravity and friction work completely differently in space, the bullet will likely fly off indefinitely.
The unique characteristics of space will also affect the person firing the gun, propelling them in the opposite direction of the bullet at a certain speed. If they fire the gun within the trajectory of a planet’s orbit, the bullet might enter orbit and come back to hit them — causing them to literally shoot themselves in the back.
According to newly unearthed documents, Russians actually tried this firing-in-orbit thing in 1975 — except they used a cannon instead of a gun and operated it remotely from the ground. Although the results of this experiment are still under wraps, it’s likely that the three cannonballs they fired are still hurtling around our planet today.
Soviet cosmonauts also took guns with them to space for decades, though not with the intention of firing them in space. Since they would land in the grasslands of Kazakhstan upon returning to Earth, they would need the guns to defend themselves from hostile wildlife or locals while awaiting pickup.