We must be strong there just as we are on earth

Friday, August 21st, 2020

In June 1965, the Directorate of R&D of the Future Weapons Office in Rock Island, Illinois published The Meanderings of a Weapon Oriented Mind When Applied in a Vacuum Such as the Moon:

The purpose of this brochure is to stimulate the thinking of weapon people all the way from those who are responsible for the establishment of requirements, through those who are responsible for funding, to the weapon designer himself.

“If space is truly for peace,” it reads, “we must be strong there just as we are on earth.”

It presents early thoughts and then corrected thinking, like this:

Although the widely advertised temperature of from –250° to +250° F. are actualities on the moon, they are the approximate extremes reached on the surface at midday and midnight. (Days and nights are two weeks long.) The surface of the moon is a poor conductor of heat, consequently a little shade during the day and earth light during the night, plus  a reversible white and black umbrella may be sufficient to keep the temperature in the vicinity of the space suit within limits of from –65° to +125 to +160° F. Assuming a direct proportion to the reflecting area, earth light on the moon will be sixteen times greater than moonlight on the earth.

The discussion involves some calculations. A “5 to 95 percentile” man has an unrestricted maximum line of sight of from 1.4 to 1.6 miles on the moon, with its mean radius of 1080 miles:

Any object propelled horizontally from the shoulder of a man six feet tall (shoulder approximately 5 feet above the surface) would impact the surface after an uninterrupted flight of 2.73 times its velocity. For a velocity of 3000 ft/sec the impact point would be 8190 feet or about 2500 meters. [...] Therefore, the maximum range of a projected object at a velocity of 3000 ft/sec is about 320 miles when propelled at an angle of 45 degrees with the lunar surface. Its maximum ordinate is approximately 80 miles above the surface.

Orbital velocity at the moon’s surface is 5,600 feet per second — totally doable.

Pages 10–16 could have come from an early 1980s sci-fi roleplaying game:









  1. Wang Wei Lin says:

    No trigger guards. What could possibly go wrong?

  2. Sam J. says:

    I read a sci-fi story one time where there was a war on the Moon. An enormous amount of ammo was fired but…it didn’t hit the target and also wasn’t fast enough for escape velocity. So all this mass of ammo was randomly killing people as it orbited the Moon No one knew when a round would come out of no where and hit them.

  3. McChuck says:

    Were those from The Morrow Project?

  4. Ranger says:

    “The Meanderings of a Weapons Oriented Mind When Applied In a Vacuum” would make a great title for gun-blog!

    Just saying…

  5. TRX says:

    “So all this mass of ammo was randomly killing people as it orbited the Moon“

    I remember that one too, but not the title or author. That’s going to bug me for days… I’m pretty sure it was a “name” author and written during the Cold War, but I’m coming up blank otherwise.

    The web coughed up another story which I’m sure I haven’t read, by Charles Cloukey in the March 1928 issue of Amazing Stories, about a man who shot himself in the back as his bullet orbited the Moon.

    Cloukey died of typhoid in 1931. It’s sort of frightening to realize just how modern “modern medicine” is…

    I also found a number of references to Jerome K. Bixby’s “The Holes Around Mars”, from the January 1954 issue of Galaxy, but that was either neutronium or a black hole orbiting Mars.

  6. Dr. Mauser says:

    I find it somewhat questionable, the utility of stabilizing fins on a projectile to be fired in a vacuum.

    Projectile design would be quite different too. They could ignore optimizing aerodynamics and concentrate on terminal ballistics.

  7. Kevin M. says:

    “6. The laser, for practical application as a weapon, is 20 years away.”

    Said 55 years ago. Could have worked fusion as a power source in on that.

    Portland Antifa seems to have found the practical application.

  8. Kirk says:

    First illustration pretty clearly shows an angled venturi design; bottom one isn’t detailed enough to tell what the hell they’re trying to show.

    Most of this is so much BS, anyway. Conventional weapons work in space, as shown by the Soviets and their autocannon test-fires. All you have to do is include lubricant to prevent vacuum welding, and some form of compensation for the recoil forces.

    Whatever they wind up using, I suspect it won’t be anything illustrated here. Just like the specialized weapons issued to Air Marshals, you’re going to have to have taken into account things like putting your projectiles into orbit, and all the like. You’re also going to have to worry about shooting up your own life support systems by accident, soooo… Frangibles? A built-in IFF system?

    More than likely, there will be two separate weapon families: One for use inside a life support system you want to keep working, and one for everything else, which will likely have to be suitable for going after small vehicles and so forth. The reality is that outside a life-support system, the biggest target will be other, smaller life support systems and drones. Individually suited humans are going to be peripheral issues, and not much worried about. Proximity-fused recoilless rifles or missiles with significant projectiles will be the weapon of choice; probably with some form of terminal guidance and control. Get a warhead within range, detonate it, and anything wearing a conventional spacesuit is dead meat, whether on a planetoid or in open space.

    Of course, the other issue is the resultant debris/fragmentation coming back on you and killing your vehicle or suit…

    As per my usual commentary vis-a-vis all the wanking about warfare anywhere; best not start such things in the first place. What you might gain is never worth the cost, something that all the so-called “great men” and “conquerors” ought to consider.

  9. Jim says:

    What is the largest employer in America, Kirk?

  10. Sam J. says:

    “6. The laser, for practical application as a weapon, is 20 years away.”

    Lasers suck. Really bad. Just for the hell of it I compared the energy in a .223 (1300 joules(a little low)) to watts(from DuckDuckGo converter). It’s 0.3611111 Watt-Hours or 0.006018 Watt-seconds. A 6mW laser is worthless compared to a .223.

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