Buzz killer

By Phil Plait | August 14, 2009 10:30 am

Watch out, Apollo Deniers!

Buzz Aldrin from Apollo 11

He’s reaching for his gun!

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Antiscience, Humor, NASA
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Comments (84)

  1. Ala'a

    Do I see the famous Omega Speedmaster, the first watch worn on the Moon and now presumed lost?

  2. Mena

    He’s not finding a way to point at them with the only finger that they deserve to be pointed at with?

  3. TS

    What are you doing with a gun in space!?

  4. Brian Schlosser

    “Watch out! They’re ruffled!”

  5. Buzzy’s got a gun
    Buzzy’s got a gun
    His whole world’s come undone
    From looking straight at the sun

  6. That is indeed the mythical Speedmaster! 😉

  7. txhawk23

    I would like to see Phil comment on this:

    Augustine panel sees tough choices ahead for NASA
    The upcoming report from the Augustine Committee “could turn the entire space program upside down,” the Washington Post reports. The 10-member panel is scheduled to meet today with Obama administration officials, and the news is expected to be grim. Over months of meetings, the committee has found that current budget constraints will allow NASA to send astronauts back to the moon by 2020 only if the $100 billion International Space Station is destroyed in 2016. Short of that politically unpalatable option, the nascent Constellation program cannot possibly go forward at current funding levels. “If Santa Claus brought us this system tomorrow, fully developed, and the budget didn’t change, our next action would have to be to cancel it,” says committee member Jeff Greason. The Washington Post (8/14)

  8. TS:

    What are you doing with a gun in space!?

    In space, no one can hear you scream.

  9. Kevin

    Hey now – Buzz is a dangerous guy! He almost ran me over when he came to my college to talk!

    Funny thing is, I wouldn’t have even been angry or upset or anything. Getting run over by BUZZ freakin’ ALDRIN would have been the most epic event of my life!

  10. Rachel D.

    I think my Kel-Tec or my Beretta could fit in that pocket quite nicely…

    Buzz dear, do you need to borrow a piece? 😉

  11. TS

    Ken B:

    You Klown, you kill me: In space, no one can eat ice cream.

  12. Jeff

    I wouldn’t dare accuse Buzz of not landing on moon because I might get punched.

    But after a debate with the folks at BAUT forum, I think they’ve convinced me of the reality of the moon landings. When you look at all the evidence, not to mention the LRO images, it looks like an ironclad case.

    I’m just surprised that the HB people got so much publicity. I can see why a small minority always have ridiculous views like Holocaust deniers, but why they got popularity, hard to figure. One idea, guys like Bart Sibrel charge money to buy their videos and so they are salesmen, not just hypothetical promoters of HB ideas. And FOX wanted to boost its ratings, so it put up its awful special.

  13. Sir Eccles

    Am I right to presume a gun would actually fire in the vacuum of space? I don’t see why it wouldn’t work. Would the recoil be enough to maneuver during a space walk?

  14. Buzz shoot first!!!

    :))

  15. TS

    “Calm down, I’m a spaceman too, I’m just going for my badge”

  16. !AstralProjectile

    His eyes do look a little Yuul Brennery: “Draw!”

  17. Joe

    I recently read his article in Popular mechanics about why we should go to mars. I’m thinking he’s looking more at NASA than at irrelevant conspiracy theorists. Go Buzz!

  18. TS

    “What separate primates from other animals is our opposable thumbs, I keep mine in this pocket”

  19. TS

    “In the future, astronauts will keep a personal record player here. Edgar Mitchell have told me it will be called an iPod”

    “NASA have spent $1000,000 to develop a pocket for my cigarettes, on Earth I keep them rolled up in my shirt sleeve”

  20. Oscar

    Everybody knows that hardcore rappers ALWAYS CARRY GUNS!

    Check out his rap video:
    http://www.funnyordie.com/videos/0be5c681fc/buzz-aldrin-s-rocket-experience

    and…he hangs out with Ali G…check that out!
    http://www.funnyordie.com/videos/822b2761c2/ali-g-with-buzz-aldrin-from-aligshow_fan

  21. TychoF

    @Sir Eccles #12 – A normal gun would not fire in space. An explosion needs three things: oxygen, fuel, and a heat source. The fuel is in the gunpowder, the heat source is in the casing/hammer, but there’s no oxygen (not enough for an explosion anyway). Alternative bullet designs might work by carrying their own oxygen. But, a rail gun or other non-chemical design would probably work best.

  22. That’s what they use in Stargate!

  23. TSFrost

    Well, Vera needed atmo’ to fire, so I suspect a lesser gun would need it as well.

  24. Lars

    @TychoF #18 & TSFrost #20: You don’t see air intakes in normal guns. There is enough bound oxygen in the propellant. The gun would, AFAIU, work in space. Google it; The Straight Dope has an article on the subject.

  25. Obvious

    @TychoF – you’ve got that wrong – gunpowder contains both fuel and oxidizer.

  26. TS

    @TychoF: Sorry you are wrong there. Gunpowder contains all it needs for an explosion, it gets its oxygen from potassium nitrate. The atmosphere wouldn’t be able to supply the oxygen at the rate it’s needed during an explosive burning.

    We covered this on a another post a while back, dealing with an episode of Firefly:
    http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/badastronomy/2008/03/16/bad-bad-movie-physics/

  27. @TychoF #18 – Actually, modern cartridges have their own oxidizer built in, so they will fire in vacuum or underwater. In the case of automatic and semi-automatic firearms that use some of the expelled gasses to chamber the next round, being in vacuum instead of atmospheric pressure might cause it to jam (might, can’t seem to find a straight answer on it). Regardless the gun will fire.

    And as for Vera, in the commentary for that episode of Firefly, they admit they got it wrong. 😀

  28. Elwood Herring

    You aren’t the real Buzz! You’re – you’re an action figure! And that’s not a laser, its a little light bulb that blinks!

  29. Woof

    @TychoF #18 – Uh… no. Explosives (like, say, gunpowder) contain their own oxidizers. Guns would work fine in a vacuum, or even underwater. Well, they’d fire underwater, but you’d probably not be real happy with the results.

    @Sir Eccles #12 – Yes, gun recoil would move you around in free-fall. In fact, it was used quite a bit in early Space Age science fiction. 😉 Really, it would work, but there are safer, more effective ways to do it. OTOH, it would make a spiffy Olympic sport! If you don’t get lined up with your center of mass, you start spinning…

  30. Woof

    Damn, we sure piled on TychoF in short order, didn’t we?

  31. I’ve no doubt firing a gun would move you around in free-fall, but how much acceleration would it really produce? Thinking here about Newton’s Third and that, yeah, the bullet’s moving pretty fast, but it’s light – how fast would that force get something with the mass of a person moving? Not disputing you could use it to move around, but I’m thinking (without doing the math, I admit), that it’d be pretty slow (which, yeah, in free-fall, slow is best anyway, but still).

    And yeah, I’m too lazy to go look up how fast a bullet moves and work out how much kinetic energy it’d have and so forth…

  32. Bill Roberts

    I think everyone is missing the obvious here. Whether or not gunpowder would work in a vacuum, the fact that Buzz isn’t wearing a helment and appears quite alive (quite ornery, actually) tells me that he isn’t in a vacuum.

  33. jsclary

    @TychoF:

    Old bullets will work because Black Powder contains it’s own oxidizer: Potassium Nitrate (KNO3) also known as Saltpeter.

    Modern bullets will work because Cordite contains Nitroglycerin (C3H5N3O9) which is unstable and detonates rather than burning.

    You probably wouldn’t get much of a muzzle flash but the gun should fire just fine.

  34. Mena

    Kevin @8: I totally agree with that! :^)
    Bill Roberts@28: Didn’t you know that Buzz is able to survive in a vacuum? He’s not like that wimpy Chuck Norris.

  35. jsclary

    @Bill Roberts: Yes, the bigger problem is bullets will punch a neat little hole in the tin can that is keeping you alive.

  36. Torbjörn Larsson, OM

    What are you doing with a gun in space!?

    Same as on Earth; kill game for dinner et cetera.

    [What, no game?! Are they going to eat all greens from the hydroponic farms? Boooring!]

    An explosion needs three things: oxygen, fuel, and a heat source.

    Actually, as commenters point out, that would mostly be an oxidizer, to sustain an exothermic reaction. And FWIW hypergolic propellants as used in some rockets ignite spontaneously when combined, showing that the energy barrier for the reaction can be very low and passed over by many means. (Not only heat, but things like catalyzators, light, electricity, radioactivity, et cetera.)

    But in some cases you need neither:

    An explosive may consist of either a chemically pure compound, such as nitroglycerin, or a mixture of an oxidizer and a fuel, such as black powder. … Some chemical compounds are unstable in that, when shocked, they react, possibly to the point of detonation. Each molecule of the compound dissociates into two or more new molecules (generally gases) with the release of energy. * Nitroglycerin: A highly unstable and sensitive liquid. … [Wikipedia.]

    One compound, one shock, one explosion – if you are lucky. 😀

    My naive guess is that explosives provide oxidizers not only to control reaction speed by substituting for oxygen, but because they starve the environment on oxygen if that is used. Ie fuel and gas explosions permeate a volume where the fuel has been dispersed, but I’m not so sure they could spread further even if there is fuel excess.

    we sure piled on TychoF in short order, didn’t we?

    When I hear the word gun, I reach for my science.

  37. IVAN3MAN

    TS:

    Gunpowder contains all it needs for an explosion, it gets its oxygen from potassium nitrate.

    Actually, modern firearms use nitrocellulose based smokeless powder as the propellant, not gunpowder — which went out with the old wild-west.

    The chemical formula for nitrocellulose is: C6H7(NO2)3O5 (that’s 11 atoms of oxygen per molecule).

    The Almaz series of military space stations, launched by the former Soviet Union, was armed with a derivative of the Nudelman-Rikhter NR-23 (23mm) anti-aircraft cannon. The OPS-2 (Salyut 3), of the Almaz series, successfully test-fired its onboard 23mm aircraft cannon at a target satellite while the station was unmanned. Salyut-3 was deorbited in January 1975, the day after the cannon test. Aiming the cannon meant pointing the whole spacecraft. It was speculated the cannon firing significantly altered the orbit of the platform. As one commentator put it: “It wouldn’t do to fire at an attacker only to discover [that] you have deorbited yourself!” However, in reality the mass of the station was so great compared to the low recoil of the cannon, that firing the gun in no way significantly altered the attitude or inclination of the station.

  38. Gary Ansorge

    Most hand guns have a muzzle velocity around 1000 to about 1500 ft/sec. and the mass of a .44 magnum slug is about 16-21 gms. I’ve fired a .44 magnum and it does have a significant recoil. I expect anyone firing one in micro G would have a hard time hitting anything. They’d be too busy spinning around in a circle,,,

    ,,,and ALL gun or other explosives carry their own oxidizer, no O2 required.

    Gary 7

  39. Torbjörn Larsson, OM

    Oh, and the heat source thing and guns: I believe both the hammer on a gun provides the primer on a cartridge with just a shock, and the primer provides the explosive with one, not primarily heat in either case. Heat transfer would probably be slower here, even in such small masses.

    Are there any gun experts around?

  40. Jeremy Henderson

    Please, there is clear empirical evidence that Buzz doesn’t need a gun to deal with moon landing deniers.

    And you people call yourself skeptics.

  41. Gary Ansorge

    35. Torbjörn Larsson, OM

    The primer material is a shock sensitive explosive, like fulminate of mercury, which explodes when struck, then propagates its flame to the primary explosive charge in the cartridge. The primary charge is not particularly shock sensitive, which is why they don’t fire when they’re jostled however, you DON’T want to hit the primer cap a sharp blow until you’re ready to fire the gun. That would be referred to as an “oopsie”.

    Gary 7

  42. Brant D

    Obviously Buzz would have a raygun…

  43. TS

    “Right here is where I got my Buzz Lightyear tattoo”

  44. Elwood Herring

    Sorry Neil, you may have been the first man on the Moon and all that, but Buzz was the first cool dude to stand on another world. Face it Neil – youz bin pwned!

  45. ha, good one! keep up the fight against ignorance Buzz

  46. Radwaste

    I am amazed that so many people do not know the first thing about how guns work, considered their relentless presentation in television programs and movies.

    But I am doubly distressed to find such a void here. Aren’t you people nerds, who find learning stuff fun?

    Hey, do your physics, too! You’re on an astronomer’s blog; the least you can do is learn the basics.

  47. Mena

    Radwaste, I think that most of us can think of a bajillion things that are more interesting than how guns work. Sorry. How gravity works would be a start…

  48. BuZZZzzzz z z z …

    “Here. Have my arm.”

    Pic title, ‘The Science of Making Space Craft Lighter’.

    C

  49. Lars Bruchmann

    “Do you know of the Klingon proverb that says: ‘Revenge is a dish best served cold.’ It is very cold in space.”

  50. Bill Roberts

    @36; “And FWIW hypergolic propellants as used in some rockets ignite spontaneously when combined, showing that the energy barrier for the reaction can be very low and passed over by many means. (Not only heat, but things like catalyzators, light, electricity, radioactivity, et cetera.)”

    . . . or Buzz Aldrin’s badassedness.

  51. Woof

    > … or Buzz Aldrin’s badassedness.

    … or Buzz’s high-zoot space pen that he used to reset the LM ascent engine enable circuit breaker!

  52. Jim

    In microgravity, the round would have a very flat trajectory. If the target is not accelerating, just lead the target an appropriate amount. If you miss, the bullet could fly around the earth and hit you in the ass. Get a GyroJet – recoil in minimal.

  53. Modern smokeless powder does not explode. It is a rapid combustion. A huge amount of research goes into different powder configurations to control the rate and consistency of the combustion. Blackpowder does explode.

  54. Billy Bob

    @ Bill

    Well.. the photo IS in the module so…

  55. Jack Mitcham

    @ TheChef

    That sounds like every General Physics 1 problem I did for a month last semester. Instead of “in space” though, they used “standing on a frictionless surface.”

  56. Andrew

    Fifty-four comments and noone has noticed it have they? Check out the Masonic ring on his finger, and the lovely Masonic hand signal he’s giving (he also has the ring on show in the Apollo 22, I mean 11 crew photo. Oh dear Buzz.

    This may make me unpopular on here, and I’m sure theres a perfectly logical and simple answer. When the Apollo 11 (or is that 22? – sorry I can’t resist the Masonic references…oops) lunar module takes off from the moon, it is being filmed from the surface. The camera actually follows the module as it increases in altitude. Was this a remotely controlled robotic camera? Can anyone shed any light on this for me?

  57. TS

    Andrew,
    A court jester can be popular if he knows his limits, but he will not always be taken seriously.

    The lunar module lift-off from the moon was filmed with a robotic camera controlled by an operator from Earth. The whole thing was carefully planned and rehearsed to compensate for the 2 second delay between seeing something through the camera and the equipment responding to the remote command.
    I’m not sure if Apollo 11 was filmed during lift-off though, guess you have to do some Googling or maybe read a few books.

  58. Paul Gaddis

    Hey Buzz,

    Didn’t NASA tell you NOT to flash gangsign! Throw’em UP!!

  59. Few days ago what I have read in a local magazine that till now 10 mens had landed on moon after the first moon landing in 1969 that is after (Neil armstrong & Aldrin). Is there any sign existing on moon (of landings of these 12 men).Is the flag is still there left by ALDRIN AND ARMSTRONG.Is it
    possible to see this flag from earth

    CHANDAN
    INDIA

  60. Charles J. Slavis, Jr.

    “Go ahead! Make my day!”

  61. Charles J. Slavis, Jr.

    I am guessing that the oxygen is there, since he isn’t wearing a space suit.

  62. Charles J. Slavis, Jr.

    Or, is this Apollo 13?

  63. Charles J. Slavis, Jr.

    “What’s the buzz? Tell me what’s a happening.”

  64. ralph dresh

    it was an experiment. no elevation needed and not any friction. it goes forever. well almost forever. and it worked. national secrets eh.

  65. Firearms will fire in space and underwater. Some automatics have a problem underwater because the resistance of the water causes problems with recoil and chambering, hence the tendency to jam, but you can always get one shot off. Some long-guns have problems because the bullet has to travel through the water that will fill the barrel and since most rifles aren’t designed for that, you risk having the barrel explode or crack (raise your hands if you saw that episode of Mythbusters). In space, those problems don’t exist. The lack of air resistance and gravity isn’t going to make a significant difference, and the lack if air is not a problem.

    As for guns in space… I thought everyone knew that the Apollo missions had a .45 on board in case of aliens.

  66. Gary Ansorge

    65. Will.

    Naw. That .45 was just in case they inadvertently landed in the Amazon. In case they met cannibals.

    Wouldn’t that be a hoot? “Hey, I just made a gazillion mile trip and ended up getting eaten by my own kind,,,so much for the danger from aliens,,,”

    56. Andrew:

    Hey, even my DAD was a Mason. He said he had to join while he was working for ARAMCO in Arabia because it was the best way to get promotions,,,Danged conspiracies.

    GAry 7

  67. I’m not 100% positive on this (I might just be spreading urban legend) but I think the Soyuz capsules are each equipped with a gun. Apparently, it’s part of the survival kit, in case they land in some hostile territory upon re-entry, not for hostile alien beings or any such thing. (Though Chuck Heston sure could have used one on those “damned dirty apes!”)

  68. I’m not 100% positive on this (I might just be spreading urban legend) but I think the Soyuz capsules are each equipped with a gun. Apparently, it’s part of the survival kit, in case they land in some hostile territory upon re-entry, not for evil alien beings or any such thing. (Although Chuck Heston sure could have used one on those “damned dirty apes!”)

  69. Bryce

    @ TS. The last one was the only complete ascent filmed (controlled by Ed Findell (sp) if I recall correctly. The camera on 15 couldn’t look up and on 16 they were too slow and they missed the ascent.

  70. Woof

    Andrew:

    When the Apollo 11 (or is that 22? – sorry I can’t resist the Masonic references…oops) lunar module takes off from the moon, it is being filmed from the surface. The camera actually follows the module as it increases in altitude. Was this a remotely controlled robotic camera? Can anyone shed any light on this for me?

    Nope, no external video of the Apollo 11 LM liftoff.

    CHANDAN:

    Is there any sign existing on moon (of landings of these 12 men).

    Yes. See http://tinyurl.com/mlf5xa

    Is the flag is still there left by ALDRIN AND ARMSTRONG.

    Yes, but it’s no longer upright. It fell over during liftoff of the ascent stage.

    Is it possible to see this flag from earth

    No.

  71. Otto

    According to this -http://www.wesh.com/news/15298911/detail.html-and other stories
    there is, and has been for a long time, a gun onboard the International Space Station.

  72. Love the comments! Particularly the movie quotes and such from @TS. Here are a couple of my random thoughts:

    Buzz Aldrin has got to be the hardest working astronaut in retirement. He doesn’t take any pictures of Armstrong on the moon, then he’s at every space-related event held, doing interviews everyday, etc. Bah, I bet that tough guy stare and pretty white suit got soiled big time after the first 1201 program alarm. Just kidding Buzz, don’t slug me after your next event. :-)

    I’m fascinated by the preservation of space history, and space archeology. I’m hopeful that the moon landing sites will be preserved, at least Apollo 11 and Apollo 12 site, along with the Surveyor III lander. I mean, should Al Shepard’s golf ball be picked up and put in a muesem?

  73. Interesting story regarding the “gun” on the ISS. Presumably, the Soyuz – which does not have pinpoint landings – would have more of a need for a hunting-style gun as part of a survival kit than say the Space Shuttle, which would probably focus on having a flare gun if the crew used the atmospheric bailout abort option.

    I did some checking and found this site detailing the kit. There is a three-barreled pistol, and a machete! The pistol can fire flares, bullets or shells. Soyuz crews, including NASA Astronauts and space tourists get training in the loading and firing of the gun.
    http://suzymchale.com/kosmonavtka/soysurvive.html

  74. Automatics could potentially have another problem in low gravity environments. They are designed to function in earths gravity. It would potentially require some modifications to the action (the parts of the weapon that cycle the spent cartridge and load a fresh one from the magazine). I believe they would cycle, but their reliability would be compromised.

  75. Sounds like Phil should contact his Close Personal Friend [TM] Adam Savage and have both underwater and in vacuum tests of firearms, both ‘classic’ (black powder) and modern (smokeless powder) tested on that show of his.. what’s the name again? Mythbreakers?

    J/P=?

  76. Andrew

    Woof,

    I just watched the video myself this morning on “The Sky at Night – Apollo miracle” show from June this year. Its a BBC show hosted by Sir Patrick Moore. One of the sections of the show clearly shows the module taking off from the lunar surface. They discuss in detail why this was so significant (only one shot to do it etc.). They had only run through the drill here on Earth and had one chance to do it.

    Thanks for the explanation TS. I never doubted that we did land there. I just like to stir it up a bit. It comes with the territory.

    However, fact, this IS a masonic hand symbol that he gives here. The first finger is hidden, and the remaining three fingers are shown. And again, he is wearing a Masonic ring. I’m not one for the Freemasonic/Illuminati conspiracy theories. They definitely did land there. I just find it odd that he would do this.

  77. TS

    Well, if he’s wearing a Masonic ring, then he probably is a Mason and I would see nothing strange in him making a Masonic gesture.

    Maybe it’s coincidence, but in “The Ancient Mystic Society of No Homers” that hand gesture means “The Chosen One was as dud”.
    Buzz should know because he was once on a mission with The Chosen One.

    And I, for one, welcome our new insect overlords.

  78. Woof

    Andrew –

    One of the sections of the show clearly shows the module taking off from the lunar surface. They discuss in detail why this was so significant (only one shot to do it etc.). They had only run through the drill here on Earth and had one chance to do it.

    Again, that wasn’t Apollo 11. It was probably Apollo 17. There is some video of the Apollo 11 LM liftoff, but it was from inside the LM, shot with a 16mm movie camera.

  79. JohnnyGA

    Does anyone else notice the guy was bald in 1969 and has a full head of hair now? Let me know the secret Buzz, mine is thining.

  80. fred edison

    Upon climbing back into the LM after a day of playing in the lunar dust, they said it smelled like gunpowder. No one had passed gas (or admitted to it), so they figured the familiar odor was from the moon dust. I doubt that Buzz had popped one off for fun, either.

    http://science.nasa.gov/headlines/y2006/30jan_smellofmoondust.htm

    The Russian manned spy capsules had a 23mm cannon as a defensive measure. They were worried that using the gun would dangerously rock the capsule, but it survived the vibration when it was remotely test fired.

    http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/astrospies/program.html (chapter 5, 1:55 or read transcript for gun talk)

    Flashback to Phil firing a MP-5 weapon and people running for cover. Okay, not running for cover but keeping an eye on him just in case.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cWgb64PvcKE

  81. One more joke I hope hasn’t been taken:

    “Hokey religion’s no substitute for a good blaster at your side.”

    Buzz shot first.

  82. IVAN3MAN

    John Paradox:

    Sounds like Phil should contact his Close Personal Friend [TM] Adam Savage and have both underwater and in vacuum tests of firearms, both ‘classic’ (black powder) and modern (smokeless powder) tested on that show of his.. what’s the name again? Mythbreakers?

    Actually, they have already done a Mythbusters episode (#51) in which they carried out tests of Guns Fired Underwater:

    All of the firearms (a 9mm [Parabellum], a .357 [Magnum], a 12-gauge shotgun, and a .30-06 [Springfield]) could be discharged underwater; however, the bullets lose velocity rapidly and are rendered less than lethal beyond a meter. (The entire gun had to be completely submerged in water — all pockets of air must be removed — in order to prevent a possible explosion when fired.) Furthermore, the break-barrel shotgun (a relatively old design) destroyed itself when fired underwater. Finally, the water pressure might cause the spent cartridge casing to fail to leave the chamber and effectively reduce the gun to a one-shot deal. Obviously, revolvers would not have this problem, as they do not eject their spent casings after each shot.

  83. Dan

    Underwater combat on the moon presents a unique set of challenges.

  84. Amos Zeeberg (Discover Web Editor)

    Also, he looks like Patrick Swayze in this picture.

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