|Is it possible to shoot a gun in space?
|Question Date: 2003-01-30|
I can't think of any reason why you couldn't.
Basically, a cartridge consists of the actual
bullet (usually of lead) tucked into a casing that
contains gunpowder and a primer. When the hammer
hits the primer, it ignites the powder. The solid
powder almost instantaneously turns into gas,
which takes up a lot more volume or space than the
solid. This sudden increase in pressure forces the
bullet out of the cartridge at high speed. The
same thing should happen in space. Of course the
bullet will have no air resistance in the vacuum
of space, so I guess it would just keep going
until it hit something or something hits it. I
wondered at first if the lack of oxygen would keep
the powder from igniting, but the ignition happens
inside the sealed cartridge, so I doubt it. I
doubt that we'll be seeing any firearms on space
flights however. It's just too dangerous and
there aren't likely to be any problems that the
astronauts can solve by shooting at them.
The whole idea of pressure and volume is
an important one. It explains a lot of things,
from how our lungs work to why we have wind and
other types of weather. It also explains how
rockets get into space to begin with.
Yes. Bullets don't need air to fire. When the
gunpowder in the cartridge ignites and explodes,
it creates a lot of hot gas which expels the
bullet out of the gun.
There is a
possible complication, though, when firing a gun
in space. If you are in a microgravity
environment, conservation of momentum becomes a
very noticeable effect. Imagine that you and a
friend are on roller blades or ice skates and one
of your pushes on the other one. What
You both move away from each other because there
is not much friction and total momentum (mass X
velocity) is basically conserved. Since you and
your friend had no momentum to start with, your
mass X speed after the push must equal that of
your friend who is going in the opposite
direction. So what do you think would happen if
you were floating in space and fired a gun?
This is a great question and it has quite the
debate among my friends and I. While I am sorry
to say I can not offer a concrete answer, I will
give you the answer we think is probably correct.
It is most likely impossible to fire a gun in
space, assuming you are talking about a standard
firearm. By this I mean a gun that fires a bullet
containing gun powder. The reason you could not
fire this gun is because there is very little
oxygen in space and oxygen would be necessary to
cause a spark to cause the powder inside the
bullet to ignite and the gun to fire.
you were talking about a pressurized gun, like a
pellet gun with a CO2 cartridge, it may
to fire. Here the problem would be that we are
dealing with zero-gravity and we are not sure what
implications it has when talking about
Thanks for the great question.
You know it is a good question when you stump the
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