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Home Science NASA celebrates 50 years since astronaut first played golf on the Moon

NASA celebrates 50 years since astronaut first played golf on the Moon

On February 6, 1971, NASA’s Apollo 14 crew made it to the Moon. The mission consisted of Commander Alan Shepard, Command Module Pilot Stuart Roosa, and Lunar Module Pilot Edgar Mitchell. While the mission was the eighth time humans made it to the Moon, it was the first time a sport was played away from our planet’s surface.

During the mission, Mr Shepard made history as he became the first human to play a round of golf on the Moon.

The Apollo 14 mission brought back 90 pounds of Moon rock, but Mr Shepard left his clubs on the lunar satellite.

However, the golf clubs were a surprise to NASA, which did not know the astronaut had smuggled his equipment up to the Moon.

Mr Shepard said during the mission as he collected lunar dust: “Houston, you might recognise what I have in my hand as the contingency sample return; it just so happens to have a genuine 6-iron on the bottom of it.

“In my left hand, I have a little white pellet that’s familiar to millions of Americans.”

It took the astronauts three attempts to successfully hit the ball, with it being difficult to manoeuvre fully in a 180-pound spacesuit.

NASA was unaware of the golf clubs, even though Mr Shepard ran the idea past mission control which told him “absolutely no way”, according to a 1988 interview.

Nonetheless, Mr Shepard, who died in 1998, took the clubs, although he was adamant he would not use them unless the mission was a resounding success.

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He told the Manned Spaceflight Center Bob Gilruth: “I will not be so frivolous.

“I want to wait until the very end of the mission, stand in front of the television camera, whack these golf balls with this makeshift club, fold it up, stick it in my pocket, climb up the ladder, and close the door, and we’ve gone.”

How far the ball travelled is still up for debate, but according to Mr Shepard it travelled “miles and miles”.

However, British-based imaging specialist Andy Saunders, who is working on a book called ‘Apollo Remastered’, analysed the footage and said it went a total of 40 yards (36.5 metres).

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Former PGA champion Jimmy Walker said a 6-iron club could hit a ball around 180 metres on Earth.

However, if he were to hit a ball on the Moon, which has a gravitational strength of just 16 percent of Earth’s, Mr Walker said it would travel up to four kilometres.

Mr Walker is quoted by Phys.org: “He was known for saying miles and miles.

“They took my launch conditions and said my ball would fly 4,600 yards (4,200 metres) and it would have just over a minute of hang time.”

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