Why did Soviet cosmonauts carry guns into space?

For decades, the standard survival kit carried by Russian astronauts aboard the Soyuz spacecraft consisted of a specially-made gun and a few dozen bullets. This was to protect the astronauts from wild animals when they landed back in the Siberian desert. They were the only armed spacefaring nation,

From space back to Earth’s atmosphere, re-entry and landing is a very difficult process. About 25,000 km per hour. At individual re-entry speeds, even the slightest misfiring of the engines can alter the trajectory, causing astronauts to land hundreds of miles away from their intended destination. Most of Russia is a desolate desert, from which rescue operations can take several days. While the astronauts wait, they not only have to deal with the cold, but also hostile bears and wolves.

In 1965, cosmonauts Pavel Belyaev and Alexei Leonov, returning from the highly successful Voskhod 2 mission, landed their spacecraft in a Siberian forest 240 miles from the intended landing zone.

Leonov and Belyev knew very well that they would have to spend the night alone in the taiga, where bears and wolves roamed. For protection, the astronauts were issued with a 9mm semi-automatic, but Leonov was well aware that this gun was inadequate against a 500-pound bear. Although Leonov saw no bears, the TOZ-82 and TP-82 were purpose-designed for future missions. Known survival 2 led to the invention of the pistol. .

The TP-82 was a triple-barreled shotgun that used two different calibers. The top two barrels were smoothbore and fired a special 12.5×70mm ammunition, also called 40 gauge. The lower barrel was rifled and used 5.45×39mm ammunition, the same ammunition used in the AK-74 assault rifle. The shotgun had a detachable stock that could be fashioned into a machete. In addition to buckshot, the TP-82 could also fire flares as a signal for help.

In 2007, it was announced that the remaining ammunition of the TP-82 was unusable and the weapon was withdrawn. In its place, a standard semi-automatic pistol was issued. However, before each mission, Russian space agency officials held a poll to decide whether the crew should carry the gun.

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