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Space & Astronomy

Today marks 52 years since Apollo 14 landed on the Moon

By T.K. Randall
February 5, 2023 · Comment icon 1 comment

Alan Shepard even played golf on the Moon. Image Credit: NASA
Despite a few technical hiccups, the mission succeeded in further cementing America's dominance in the space race.
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.

The mission's success was important to the United States as it helped to renew confidence in its ability to land humans on the Moon after the near-disastrous Apollo 13 mission.

Perhaps the most memorable thing about Apollo 14 was the surreal moment when, just before departure from the lunar surface, 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, but 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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