Beagle wreckage and rifle shooting on the moon

It was given up for lost almost two years ago but it was a mystery what happened to it.  Now they believe they have found the wreckage:

SCIENTISTS believe they have finally found the wreckage of the stricken Beagle 2 Mars probe, almost two years after it crashed on landing.

A sophisticated analysis of grainy images from a Nasa spacecraft has convinced the Beagle 2 team that the lander met its end in a small crater, into which it touched down in the early hours of Christmas Day 2003 with little chance of survival.

The pictures from Mars Global Surveyor, which have been pored over by an expert who once interpreted spy satellite images for the RAF, show an impact point in the crater and several objects that appear to be Beagle 2’s protective gas bags and, perhaps, the lander itself.

They suggest that the probe was lost because of cruel luck as it touched down in one of the worst possible places for a soft and successful landing. Rather than dropping to the surface on a flat plain, it appears to have first struck the downslope of a small crater about 18.5m (60ft) in diameter, before crashing into its opposite wall, bouncing several times around the rim and eventually coming to rest at the bottom. Even if the gas bags that were meant to cushion its impact were fully inflated, and there is some evidence that they were not, their design would not have allowed them to protect the probe properly under these unlikely circumstances.


I’m a big proponent of space exploration.  Long term getting off this planet is one of the necessary conditions for the survival of our species.  And in the medium term it represents one of the higher likelihood events to restore our freedoms.  Mars represents a good target for colonization and every time we go there it helps us to understand the problems of the journey and the habitation a little bit better. 

Another motivation for getting into space is I would like to be the first person to shoot 1000 yard groups on the moon.  With no wind and 1/5 gravity the group sizes will be awesome!  And you wondered why I had shooting conditions for the moon built into Modern Ballistics.  And no, despite a certain science fiction story you can’t put bullets into orbit from the surface of the moon.  Shooting tangential to the surface I estimate you need to be about 550 970 miles above the surface to achieve a circular orbit with a .220 Swift. 

I sent in my application to NASA to be an astronaut 15 days before Challenger blew up which stymied that career path but I figure if my friend gets his immortality project working I still have a chance.  In addition to immortality he wants to carve his initials in the moon big enough to be seen from earth with the naked eye.  Since explosives are one of the best ways of carving rock he asked if I would do it for him.  If he figures out how to get us safely to the moon and back I’ll figure out a way to carve the 70 mile wide LINES of his initials.  With all the other gear going up I figure there would be room for my rifle and a thousand rounds of ammo (especially if he uses the Orion concept).

Update: I rethought my back of the envelope (literally) calculations this morning and realize I had made an error.  I did some more number crunching and came up with some different numbers.  And since orbital mechanics is not my specialty I’m not guaranteeing any of these numbers.  Useful web pages to figure it out for yourself are here and here.  I’m assuming a muzzle velocity of 4000 fps out of the .220 Swift which has one of the highest muzzle velocities in a commerical load.

3 thoughts on “Beagle wreckage and rifle shooting on the moon

  1. Does this mean that, in theory at least, you could shoot yourself in the back by launching a bullet around the moon using a factory rifle load? Taking a cursory look at your links, I do believe so.

  2. Lyle, you can’t do that from the surface. You would have to be some distance above the surface. For a circular orbit it would be 970 MILES high. Or at the surface I think you need a muzzle velocity of something like seven or eight thousand fps.

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