Home Technology The incredible true story of the time an astronaut played golf on the moon

The incredible true story of the time an astronaut played golf on the moon

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February 6, 1971 was a relatively quiet day for American sports.

The Milwaukee Bucks, led by Larry Costello, dominated the San Francisco Warriors in the NBA, while the Boston Bruins beat the Buffalo Sabers to continue their eight-game undefeated NHL winning streak. Arnold Palmer At the Hawaiian Open, he tied for first place with 68 hits.

Nothing out of this world you might say wrong. 230,000 miles away, Alan Shepard was playing, golf A month.

Shepard’s feat on Apollo 14 was shown in grainy images on terrestrial TV sets. Apollo 14 (his eighth manned Apollo mission and his third to land on the moon) left viewers stunned, including the control room in Houston.

An avid golfer, Shepard had Jack Harden, a club pro at River Oaks Country Club in Texas, build a modified club. The resulting Wilson staff stowed his DynaPower 6 Ironhead in Sheppard’s spacesuit for launch, with several balls hidden inside his sock.

None of this was in NASA inventory. The Apollo program cost about $25 billion. 2019 analysis The Planetary Society – Brings new meaning to the saying “time is money”. Millions of minutes worth of moonwalk schedules were meticulously planned to ensure maximum efficiency.

Rumor has it that only mission director Bob Gilruth knew of the astronaut’s plans.

Shepard poses in front of the Apollo 14 mission insignia in 1970.

After nine hours of walking on the surface and performing several scientific experiments, Shepard was returning to the lunar module when he saw an opportunity. With his head attached to a club modified into a tool designed to scoop up samples of lunar rocks, Commander single-handedly prepared to tackle one of the universe’s largest bunkers.

“Houston…you might find out that what I’m holding in my hand is a handle to return a contingency sample. It just happens to have a real 6-iron on the bottom of it,” Shepard said to the camera. I spoke directly to him.

“In my left hand I have a small white pellet familiar to millions of Americans… Unfortunately the suit is so stiff I can’t do this with both hands, but I tried a little sand trap shot. I’ll try here.”

After two failed attempts, Shepard’s first shot sank into a nearby crater, much to the delight of Houston’s capsule communicator Fred Hayes.

“It looked like a slice to me,” Haise jabbed, but the first golfer of the month had one more ball left.

Blowing away a plume of moon dust, the second shot struck with a sweeter link, and Shepard liked what he saw.

“For miles and miles,” said the jubilant astronaut as the ball flew out of his sight, swallowed by the infinite darkness of space. Needless to say, no shot-tracking technology was available, so Shepard returned to Earth with the whereabouts of the second shot unknown.

Alan Shepard lining up shots, December 1995.

Three years later Andy Saunders was born in the North West of England. After graduating from Loughborough University with his photography degree, he carved out a career in real estate renovation.

What does that have to do with astronauts playing golf on the moon? Nearly 50 years later, Sanders found that the astronaut’s second shot was actually only 40 yards away (in two 10-pin bowling lanes). Min) is the person who proved that he only flew.

Since childhood, Sanders has been obsessed with everything in the universe.

Sanders didn’t make it rain at Shepard’s parade. Instead, he started with a nagging desire to remedy his lifelong frustrations. 2012 peace in Atlantic It’s titled, “There are no good pictures of Neil Armstrong on the moon.”

Because Armstrong may have been an astronaut tasked with taking small steps for humans, but he was also an astronaut with camera duties. As a result, virtually all of the iconic astronaut images taken on the surface during his Apollo 11 are Buzz Aldrin’s.

“Considering how ridiculous that concept is in today’s world, I was the first person to come to another world, but I only had one camera,” Sanders told CNN.

“They weren’t taking selfies like they are now.”

Sanders created the sharpest image of Armstrong on the Moon using a modern digital enhancement technique known as stacking, which separates the frames and then stacks them together to bring out more detail. did.

When he released the photos to mark the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11 in July 2019, it made global news. Soon after, NASA began accessing the vast library of Apollo flight movies long sealed in freezers at Houston’s Johnson Space Center, and Sanders applied his technology en masse.

NASA's original 16mm film footage of Armstrong (left) and restored version of Sanders (right).

Faced with 35,000 stills and over 10 hours of film footage, he put his property career on hold for the next two years, spending over 10,000 hours restoring every frame.Result is “Apollo Remaster” Saunders’ favorite book of 400 stunning images presents the space program in unprecedented clarity.

The cover of the book, a shot of Apollo 9 astronaut Jim McDivitt, perfectly encapsulates the water-to-wine magic of Sunder’s restoration technique. Aside from that, it was an almost completely black image, so it’s hard to believe that a lit cinematic portrait could be mined from the original.

Apollo 16 astronaut Charlie Duke explained that the photos were “an accurate representation” of his memories on the moon and “the next best thing to being there.” For Sanders, there are no higher ratings.

“I want people to feel as close as possible to walking on the moon,” he said.

“Think of a subject for any photographer, literally otherworldly backdrops and fellow humans doing these incredible and extraordinary things in extraordinary places.

“Every time you look at hundreds of images, there’s something interesting, important, or incredible.”

When he arrived on Apollo 14, Sanders set himself the task of finding Shepard’s elusive second ball. Picking it out of the original hazy footage (almost everything on the surface resembled small rocks) made it an impossible game of interstellar games.

Calculating how far the ball has traveled was a bit of a pain as there was no scale reference. Sanders’ workaround was to overlay the imagery onto footage captured from his Reconnaissance orbiter, a satellite that orbited the Moon in 2009.

There was no wind, no erosion, so nothing was moving. The scene is perfectly preserved from his 38 years, and Sanders’ answer was he was 40 yards. About 318 yards short of his PGA Tour average driving distance in 2022.

But casual golfers don’t play in cramped, bulky spacesuits and thick gloves, swing zero-gravity clubs at one-sixth of Earth’s gravity, or play with their feet barely visible. Except for certain Tik-Tok stars – Not waving with one hand.

Saunders' repair finally revealed the location of Shepard's second ball.

“He didn’t get the lie he liked. He just dropped the ball. It was like a bunker with no rake, full of rocks and footprints. Even making contact was pretty impressive. I think,” Sanders said.

Sanders believed Shepard’s “miles and miles” remark was made up jokingly. seems to support the assessment.

Ironically, however, there was an inherent truth behind the astronaut’s bold claims.According to Thunder’s calculations, if a famous big hitter Bryson DeChambeau If he could replicate the speed of a clubhead heading toward Earth at a 45-degree angle on the moon, he would fly the drive 3.41 miles.

“Funny actually, as Shepard said, it’s miles and miles,” Sanders added.

“If you have a suit that’s flexible enough, it’s possible. With no air resistance and one-sixth the gravity, you can hit almost the length of the golf course.”

Shepard is lifted by a helicopter after landing in the Atlantic Ocean aboard the Mercury capsule in May 1961.

With the release of Artemis I Earlier this month, NASA began moving toward the long-awaited return to the moon’s surface, untouched by humans since Apollo 17 astronaut Gene Cernan took the final steps in December 1972. rice field.

In theory, Sanders could become a millionaire. In his 2021 ESPN article, the auction price for each ball was at least $10 million for him, and Sanders said he would go after NASA for a 10% finder fee if the ball was recovered. I was joking.

Although Sanders has yet to plan an early retirement. He is comfortable with his belief that Shepard’s place of merit will never be hindered, a belief espoused by NASA’s chief historian Brian Odom. .

“Maybe one day there will be a colony on the moon. It’s like Stonehenge. We don’t want to mess with the Apollo landing sites,” Odom said.

“We want to treat these landing sites as national landmarks, preserve them, make sure they’re not contaminated, and make sure they’re there forever.

“I think they (balls) are where they need to stay. We need to make sure they are preserved as they are.”

Shepard is commemorated as one of two USPS stamps released in 2011 to celebrate the Mercury Project and Messenger Mission respectively.

The pair’s hopes touch on something that has contributed to Shepard’s enduring legacy of shots. It’s not about distance or monetary value, it’s about human resonance.

Strange as it may seem, by the time of Apollo 14, the American public had developed a desensitized “was there, did it” attitude toward the space program, which was primarily focused on scientific research missions. ‘s outlook has hardly changed.Mood.

Everything changed with the news of golf on the Moon. That changed even more thanks to the men wielding clubs. As the first American astronaut to go into space in 1961, Shepard, a World War II veteran, was sent by Yuri Gagarin of the Soviet Union as a remedy to the disgrace that brought America into space. , became a national celebrity.

“People love Shepards and know Shepards,” Odom explained.

“A lot of people seem to want to be Alan Shepard sometimes.

“People who knew Shepherd I spoke to said he had a zest for life. Those two things come together in that moment when you’re hitting .”

Shepard's EVA suit on display at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Cape Canaveral, Florida.

Longest drive in history or not, Shepard’s Moon Golf Exhibition has captured the imagination of not just those with an interest in golf, but for half a century.

“We always talk about going to the moon, landing on the moon, and returning to Earth. That’s how we think about the moon,” Odom said.

“But when it comes to human activity, something that is done solely for the joy of being alive is something people can appreciate.”

Sanders agrees. “Many people know that someone played golf on the Moon, but not many people know that it was on Apollo 14, or even that there was Apollo 14.

“Those human moments resonate forever.”

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