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by Tony Lee editor of
Guns In Space
by Stephen Lee
"Why would anyone need a gun in space?" - a line from the SF-disaster film,
Armageddon. So, what's the dilemma of blasting into orbit packing
iron; here are some pros and cons.
Firstly, Armageddon (1997) showed a firearm being used by the military
commander of a space shuttle to enforce the orders of his superiors over
the mission's civilian specialists regarding the use of nuclear weapons to
save the Earth. In reality, I doubt firearms are currently part of essential
shuttle equipment for a variety of reasons. To begin with, they tend to be
rather heavy articles in a profession where weight control is everything.
Even modern guns and ammo like the Glock loaded with Blaser alloy cased
cartridges add many pounds, depending on the number of rounds being transported.
Burdening a craft with extra gear that will not be used, even though guns
would function in space without any power loss, is illogical. Unplanned landings
in territory other than the United States of America, if they were the launching
agent, would also not require the use of an armed crew - as they could not
prevent anti-American activity by the host, it would take an army. Russia
covers one sixth of the planet's surface (dependant on current borders) and
should unavoidable causes force a shuttle down then negotiation would be
used not gunplay. As in Armageddon, the commander might need to control
the crew, or the crew may remove their leader with a display of firearms.
However mutiny is not part of NASA training. Furthermore, consider which
of the crew would have access to weapons and so on. Either way, many perils
present themselves should a gun be fired in the confines of a spacecraft
as the uncontrolled metallic projectile has a velocity of over one thousand
feet per second in normal gravity and could end its flight anywhere, even
after hitting its intended target!
Charlton Heston, in the role of Taylor in The Planet Of The Apes (1968),
took a gun into space as part of the ship's survival kit, but his mission
was to colonise a new world, so it seemed a reasonable inclusion. And yet,
with only one female between three males one wonders what the weapon was
really for. Chuck is now President of the National Rifle Association of America,
unlike Sean Connery who is one of the new bread of anti-gun actors, despite
kicking some ass in the excellent 1981 SF film, often described as high noon
in space, Outland (1981). Playing Marshall O'Neil, Connery stashed
away some pump action shotguns around a mining colony on the moon Io, to
fight gangster drug pushers from the Jupiter massive. Connery made his fame
and fortune as everyone's favourite spy, James Bond with his licence to kill,
but it was Roger Moore's Bond that used guns in space in the film
Moonraker (1977). Blue ray-guns, this time, fired by American
astro-troopers(?). Energy weapons have been portrayed in science fiction
movies for decades but both Buck Rogers and Captain Kirk were set far in
the future. Personally, I believe a more realistic portrayal of weapons was
shown in Ridley Scott's Alien (1979). Because they didn't have any
guns the crew of the Nostromo fashioned electric prods, used on the ship's
cat with better results than when tried on the monster of the title. (If
Yankee shuttle crews are armed it's probably with some kind of electric
stun-gun.) In Aliens (1986), the military turn out to battle the monsters
only to find their rifle magazines confiscated to prevent gunfire near a
nuclear reactor. Returning to Armageddon, there was more made of the
pistol than there was of the mobile mining vehicle being armed with rotary
cannons. What was that all about?
Do we need guns in space? We go in peace, yet we shoot to kill. The arms
race goes on into space, goes on into the human race. There are no aliens,
no enemies, and no need for guns in space.
|Famous Lines from Famous Movies
"Better to have a gun and not
than to need a gun and not have one."
- Christian Slater,
to partners in crime, in
TRUE ROMANCE (1993)
written by Quentin Tarantino, and directed by Tony Scott
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