Space & Astronomy
Golf on the Moon: 50 years since Apollo 14
By T.K. Randall
February 6, 2021 · 3 comments
Shepard wielding his makeshift golf club on the Moon. Image Credit: NASA
Astronaut Alan Shepard's golf ball has been spotted on the Moon at last thanks to new remastered images.
On January 31st, 1971, Commander Alan Shepard, Command Module Pilot Stuart Roosa and Lunar Module Pilot Edgar Mitchell blasted off aboard Apollo 14 on a daring mission to the lunar surface.
It was the third US mission to land humans on the Moon with Mitchell and Shepard touching down in the lunar highlands on February 5th before eventually returning to Earth on February 9th.
Just before departure however, the mission had taken a rather surreal turn when Shepard produced two golf balls and revealed that one of the tools he was holding was actually a makeshift golf club.
"Houston, you might recognize 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," he said.
"In my left hand, I have a little white pellet that's familiar to millions of Americans."
It took him three swings to send the first ball around 24 yards, however his second shot flew much further - prompting him to comment that it had traveled "for miles and miles and miles".
Exactly how far this second ball had gone however would go on to remain a mystery for 50 years.
It wasn't until imaging specialist Andy Saunders digitally enhanced archival images from the mission that the final resting place of the ball - and subsequently the distance it had traveled - was revealed.
Contrary to Shepard's claim at the time, the second ball had only moved about 40ft.
Still, not bad for someone in a restrictive, 200lb+ space suit swinging a makeshift club with one hand.
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