from the grounded-in-practice dept.
James Simpson has an interesting story about the TP-82 survival weapon that Russian cosmonauts carried into space with them on missions between 1982 and 2006. The TP-82 was essentially a sawed-off, double-barreled shotgun with a short-barreled rifle added onto it. Having a gun inside a thin-walled spacecraft filled with oxygen sounds crazy, but the Soviets had their reasons. Much of Russia is desolate wilderness. A single mishap during descent could strand cosmonauts in the middle of nowhere.
In March 1965, cosmonaut Alexey Leonov landed a mechanically-faulty Voskhod space capsule in the snowy forests of the western Urals … 600 miles from his planned landing site. Getting through the ordeal would end up requiring a gun to ward off wild bears, some tricks to staying warm in below zero temperatures and cross country skiing. For protection, Leonov had a nine-millimeter pistol. He feared the bears and wolves that prowled the forest—though he never encountered any. But the fear stayed with him. Later in his career, Leonov made sure the Soviet military provided all its cosmonauts with a survival weapon. For the Soviets, the weapon was a case of “better safe than sorry,” and from 1986, it was a permanent fixture in the portable survival kits of every Soyuz mission. "Astronauts of all nationalities—including Americans—have trained with the TP-82," writes Simpson. "And still today, before they ride the Soyuz to space, they must complete a Russian survival training course in the Black Sea and the Siberian forest."