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5 insane space stories we were never taught in history class: Sawn-off shotguns for Russian cosmonauts

Ian Harvey

Ever since the Soviets crossed the barrier between earth’s atmospheres and touched the edges of the space, humanity has witnessed many moments of awe and shock.

Despite the initial victory of the Russians, American space agency NASA has claimed more space territories and crossed many milestones than one could count in a day.

Despite the obvious achievements such as the moon landing and mission to Mars, there have been some rather bizarre occurrences during the whole space mission since the late 60’s. Following is a list of some of the most insane yet under-reported incidents that NASA and its astronauts had to go through.

The Giant Pee Icicle

As the proverb goes the devil is in the details; NASA space engineers had to learn fast and accomplish the herculean task of considering all possible outcomes of a space flight. Despite the fact that most of the important work was initially done with utmost professional vigour, there were still a few areas NASA had to rely on the old school ‘evolution’.

NASA engineers had to make sure the safety and sustenance of the crew onboard the spaceships; their food, health, and other requirements were taken into consideration and every possible measure was taken to ensure a comfortable flight and stay for the astronauts.

One such requirement was the proper disposal of urine produced by the crew; the technology, unfortunately, has not advanced much since the very first flights into space. However, one incident in 1984 involving the ‘pee’ of the astronauts almost caused a catastrophe.

To put it in layman terms, the liquid produced by the crew is first stored in a tank and is then released (or rather sprayed) into the open space periodically. The crew onboard space shuttle Discovery was shocked to see a giant icicle of frozen urine sticking out of the exit of the urinal discharge unit.

Hilarious sight nevertheless, the giant yellow icicle posed a danger since upon re-entry into earth’s atmosphere it could have endangered the lives of the crew. After trying a couple of basic manoeuvring such as pointing it towards the sun to melt it and trying to shake it off, NASA engineers broke the icicle with space shuttle’s grabber arm.

The Fart Broadcast

Moon Landing. Source: NASA
Moon Landing. Source: NASA

John Young is one of the very few people who have walked on the surface of the moon; however he is also famous for other amusing utterances he made while he was on the moon in 1972. Young thought he was having a casual chat with his fellow astronauts regarding his gastric issues; however what he did not realize at the time was the fact that his microphone was on and that he was recording his rather biblical case of farting for the generations to come.

Luckily the microphone was not sensitive enough to capture the blasting sounds of Young’s farts; however it did manage to capture young’s hilarious description of gastric explosions along with a few fucks. The whole affair did not end in the space; it was later discussed by Florida Governor Reubin Askew in a press conference out of all places; purely because Reubin took offence in the fact that Young had blamed the fruits form his state for his lunar farts. I am afraid this is not it.

NASA had previously spent a handsome amount of taxpayer’s money on the research analyzing astronauts’ farts’ composition to engineering their diet accordingly. Let’s just leave it at that.

Smuggled Sandwich into Space

Report.Source: NASA
Report.Source: NASA

Who could have conceived that a harmless (well not entirely harmless) and common thing as a sandwich could potentially destroy a space mission? Despite prior knowledge of the significance of this kind of hazard, an astronaut smuggled a corned beef sandwich into the space shuttle.

This crown also goes to John Young, who out of his curiosity, love for corned beef or sheer stupidity (if I may say so myself) stuffed a sandwich in his space suit and offered to his co-pilot after crossing into space. The co-pilot initially bemused by the stunt, hesitantly took a bite.

However they both realized the monstrous potential of the burger when crumbs were starting flying all over in zero gravity. NASA provides astronauts with foods that have a special coating in order to avoid such crumb-flying incidents, simply because these tiny pieces could get into shuttle’s electronics and cause considerable malfunction. The matter got so much hyped that it was even discussed in the Congress and NASA had to assure the members of the public and the representatives that no astronaut would be allowed to pull this kind of stunt in the future.

Sawn-off Shotguns for Russian cosmonauts

Triple-barreled TP-82 pistol in Saint-Petersburg Artillery museum.Source
Triple-barreled TP-82 pistol in Saint-Petersburg Artillery museum.Source

While American astronauts were busy sorting out their farts and smuggling burgers into space, Soviet engineers were arming their guys going to space with sawed-off shotguns. A specially modified TP-82 was especially designed for the cosmonauts and had packed enough power to take down a full grown grizzly bear, which could weigh up to half a ton.

Russian cosmonauts were not armed in case they had to wrestle their way out of space with aliens or have a standoff with Americans; they were given the weapon to kill any bear they might come across, well no, not in space but on earth after the successfully had landed.

Unlike NASA, which directed the returning capsules into Pacific, Russians decided to use vastness of Siberia as their landing area. However, almost all the attempts of landing went off course and capsule ended up in a far off land mostly in the regions claimed by the Grizzlies (and maybe the Bigfoot).

The Tapes from first Moon Landing accidentally erased by NASA

NASA erased the tapes of the First Moon Landing. Source: NASA
NASA erased the tapes of the First Moon Landing. Source: NASA

Up until the late ’90s VHS tapes ruled the shelves reserved for movies and memories of all sorts. One common factor between almost all the VHS holders (except the millionaires who could afford piles of blank VHS) was the fact that one VHS tape could contain a movie, a wedding ceremony, and home videos altogether.

The accidental write-off was a common occurrence. However not many people know that NASA accidentally managed to erase the recordings from the single most historic event of all times i.e. the first Moon Landing.

The whole affair came to public attention in 2006 when NASA half-heartedly admitted that they had lost track of almost all the data relating to Apollo 11 mission. NASA officials, however, assured that the old tapes must be buried under piles of other data and that they will soon locate it.

Soon after NASA came with the good news that they had found the tapes, however, the bomb-shell dropped when they admitted that all the data was somehow ‘accidentally’ erased and could not possibly be recovered. This was an apparent victory for the conspiracy theorists who always maintained the moon landing to be a hoax; however the joy was short lived.

The footages from the news agencies such as CBS who recorded the broadcast of Apollo 11 saved the back sides of NASA officials to some extent. However, this was not enough for the conspiracy theorists who are adamant that government somehow created the show of moon landing somewhere in New Mexico’s desserts.


Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for The Vintage News