NASA Invented A Rock Gun, Let's Bring In Johnny Knoxville
In response and with space exploration at its most popular and successful in decades, NASA is scaling up its shock testing. Instead of just dropping an object, as is common in engineering, NASA’s Ballistics Impact Lab is using a 40-foot long gun to shoot material with a steel ball going 3000 ft/second (around 2045 mph). For reference, the fastest bullets available travel around 2,600 feet per second.
Basically, NASA is testing space suits by shooting them with rock guns.
It all sounds like something out of a Johnny Knoxville sketch, which is why we have a little suggestion: Why not bring in Knoxville to test the rock gun?
After all, this is familiar territory for him. Before he was welcoming viewers to Jackass, the reality TV show that was once the cornerstone of a little channel called MTV, Knoxville was hosting videos for Big Brother magazine in the ‘90s. Big Brother, a skateboard and sub-culture magazine, would eventually morph into Jackass with the heaviest featured Big Brother partners performing stunts of dubious maturity. But before the boys went Hollywood, Knoxville was involved in an infamous video that remained vaulted for a decade until the fame and acceptance of the crew’s antics rendered it safe (ish) for viewing. This video was known as “The Gun Stunt”.
When Johnny Knoxville moved to Los Angeles, it was to be an actor. When that didn’t happen immediately, and being that he wasn’t a skateboarder, he filled a role with Big Brother in video stunts. And his idea, to test a bulletproof vest on HIMSELF, happened. He obviously didn’t die but, and Knoxville attests to this, he very well could have. In purchasing the vest, his focus was on cost. Not quality. And he shot himself. But luckily, he didn’t pay the price with his life and that stunt, though locked away for years, would set the benchmark for Jackass stunts. Crude, gross-out bits are a mainstay but the show became a phenomenon for taking really dumb ideas, like swimming in raw chicken, and elevating them through innovation to new heights.
Heights like… space?
NASA is wasting no effort in improving the material design to prevent catastrophic failure for their future astronauts. The lab has a series of high-speed cameras and sensors surrounding the material under violent tests that include simulated moon rock made of primary basalt (harder than platinum or iron) to ensure they capture as much data on failure modes as possible. The best data, however, could be acquired through human testing.
We’re being a little cheeky here, of course. Though humans tested bulletproof vests by literally shooting each other in the 1900s, NASA’s not about to put a person in front of their basalt shooting ballistic air gun. But they should think about it. Johnny Knoxville may be retiring from life-threatening antics but of all that was learned from the incredible longevity of a TV show where dudes hit each other in the crotch, it’s that people feel confident when they see another person walk away from what should be a disaster. Even better if everyone’s laughing.
So, NASA, take it up a Knotchville. It would be terrifying, but exhilarating. Maybe inspire the confidence and excitement that brings in a bigger budget. Get the people on your side. After all, it’s not all testing and precise math. Space exploration takes guts.
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