There’s a gun on Mars! OK, calm down. It just looks like there’s A GUN ON MARS! Does this mean The Martian Chronicles were really true stories? Could someone actually fire a gun on Mars?
Those sharp-eyed folks who scour the photos taken by the Mars rovers and satellites have found a sharp-shooting anomaly this time. The photo was taken by the Mars Opportunity Rover in September 7, 2014, (SOL 3776) and looks like a handgun dropped and abandoned on the Martian surface. (Some reports list the date as SOL 3773 but the NASA photos are labeled SOL 3776) On that date, Opportunity was on a path between Mt.. Edgecumbe and Wdowiak Ridge. It also took pictures of its own tracks and of something that looks like a trailer hitch or joystick.
Questions, questions, questions. What kind of gun is it? I’ll leave its identification to those more knowledgeable in handguns. What’s it doing there on Mars? Russian cosmonauts often carried guns on spaceflights but they’ve never been to Mars … or have they?
Fans of Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles will recall that the husband of Martian woman Ylla (Ylla) had a gun for hunting which he used to kill two astronauts, and the archaeologist Spender carried a gun and used it to kill his crew-mates (The Settlers). That narrows the ownership of the possible gun found by Opportunity down to Martians and Earthlings.
If it’s really a gun, could it be fired on Mars? Experts say yes (don’t you think the Russians thought of this?). The gunpowder and explosive primer inside the bullet need no external oxygen to explode – just something to strike it. The lack of atmosphere would help the bullet travel much farther on Mars than on Earth and its force would not dissipate as fast. On the other hand, the frigid temperatures on Mars could reduce the power of the gunpowder and the dusty surface could cause mechanical problems – Russia’s AK47 might be a better choice there than a handgun.
As with many of these types of photographs from Mars (like the cannon), there’s no indication of its size and it could just be a rock.
A rock shaped like a gun that a Martin could use to pistol-whip an astronaut!