Fifty years ago this week, Alan Shepherd hit two golf balls to the moon.
First, it crashed into the crater. The second, he said had crashed “kilometer, kilometer, kilometer.”
Well, since all golfers tend to exaggerate, Shepard, who was commander of NASA’s Apollo 14 mission, might well have hit the ball that far on February 6, 1971 – even if he only used the six homemade irons he made from a bending tool to pick up the moon rock samples he smuggled aboard in his sock.
Shepherd’s club head slipped from a sock aboard Apollo 14, and the holder to which he attached it – This image is reproduced courtesy of the United States Golf Association, which keeps the object in its museum as part of the Moonshot Collection.
The only footage recorded was grainy video from the side of a single TV camera. And there was no bullet detection technology.
But imaging specialist Andy Saunders recently took a high-resolution digital scan of the original film and applied a stacking technique to the smaller 16mm “film” the team shot.
And not only did he find a second bullet he hadn’t seen in 50 years, but he discovered how far he had come.
Reducing the moon’s gravity would certainly have helped, and Saunders says US Open champion Bryson DeChambeau could theoretically have shot the ball 3.41 miles in the air in one minute and 22 seconds-almost the entire length of the 18-hole course-if he had taken the course to its limit.
How far could Shepard hit the ball?
“Looks like a cut, Al,” said Fred Hayes of Case Management after seeing that Shepard’s first shot hit a nearby crater. Based on the known location of the television camera, Shepard’s boot prints can be identified, showing his position during the first two shots – when he “caught more dirt than the bullet.
“We can now say that ball number one was 24 yards and ball number two was 40 yards,” said Saunders, from Cheshire, who works with the United States Golf Association (USGA) as an outside liaison for the anniversary celebrations.
Unfortunately, even an impressive second shot can hardly be called “miles and miles and miles,” but it was certainly never considered frivolous exaggeration.
Using a known scale of images taken by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, a spacecraft launched in 2009 that took this image in 2011, the point between the gap and the sphere can be measured.
While these distances may seem unattainable, it is an amazing feat for Shepard, who became the first American to fly in space in 1961, a decade before he became the fifth man to walk on the moon.
“The moon is essentially a giant bunker of unburned rock,” Saunders continues.
“The pressure suits restricted their movements, and they couldn’t even see their feet through the helmet visors.”
“I challenge any club golfer to go to their local golf course and try to hit a quarter swing six with one hand from an unsupported bunker. ”
“So imagine being fully clothed, wearing a helmet and thick gloves. Remember, too, that there was little gravity to pull the club head toward the ball.
“The fact that Shepherd made contact and got the ball in the air is very impressive.”
Images from the 1971 film Lunar Module were used to identify the two balloons. ‘Javelin’ was the stem of the solar wind experiment, launched by his teammate Edgar Mitchell.
Andy Sanders is an imaging specialist and the author of the forthcoming book Apollo Remastered. Having already created the most vivid image of Neil Armstrong on the moon and revealed life aboard the Apollo 13 mission, he regularly shares remastered images on social media. Follow him on Twitter: @AndySaunders_1externallink and Instagram: @andysaunders_1external-link
Frequently asked questions
What golf ball did Alan Shepard hit on the moon?
It is a replica of the homemade golf club used by NASA astronaut Alan B. Shepard Jr. hit two golf balls to the moon during Apollo 14 in February 1971. Shepard carried a modified Wilson Hex in the pocket of his spacesuit and attached the head of the club to the handle of an emergency monster retractor.
How far did Alan Shepard hit that golf ball on the moon?
Its firing range was estimated at 200 meters, which is remarkable considering that Shepard’s movements were limited by his spacesuit.
What happens when you hit a golf ball to the moon?
On the moon, the golf ball will travel much farther because the relatively weak gravity of the surface will accelerate it and make it return to the surface more slowly. Meanwhile, the ball moves at a constant horizontal speed, at least in theory. On Earth, on the other hand, air resistance prevents the ball from moving.
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