Golf on the moon: fiftieth anniversary photographs show how far Alan Shepard hit ball

Golf on the moon: fiftieth anniversary photographs show how far Alan Shepard hit ball

An image showing where Alan Shepard hit the golf balls from and to on the Moon
This picture consists of six images taken from the Lunar Module, enhanced and stitched right into a single panorama to indicate the touchdown scene, together with the placement from the place Shepard hit the balls

Fifty years in the past this week, Alan Shepard famously hit two golf balls on the Moon.

The primary he shanked right into a crater. The second he claimed to have smashed “miles and miles and miles”.

Now, whereas all golfers are liable to hyperbole, Shepard, who was commander of Nasa’s Apollo 14 mission, might properly have hit his ball that far on 6 February 1971 – regardless of solely utilizing a makeshift six iron that he had original out of a collapsible device designed to scoop lunar rock samples, and which he had sneaked aboard in a sock.

The makeshift golf club Alan Shepard used to hit a ball on the Moon
The clubhead Shepard sneaked on board Apollo 14 in a sock and the implement he hooked up it to – this picture is reproduced courtesy of the US Golf Affiliation which has the merchandise in its museum as a part of the Moon shot assortment

The one footage that exists is grainy video shot side-on from one tv digital camera. And there was no ball-tracking expertise.

However imaging specialist Andy Saunders has digitally enhanced latest high-resolution scans of the unique photographic movie, and utilized a stacking approach on smaller 16mm ‘film’ footage shot by the crew, and managed to find the second ball and work out how far it really went.

The Moon’s lack of gravity will surely have helped and Saunders says big-hitting US Open champion Bryson DeChambeau might, theoretically, blast a ball 3.41 miles within the rarefied air – just about the size of an 18-hole golf course – with a hangtime of 1 minute and 22 seconds, have been he to take his quest for extra distance to excessive lengths.

So, how far did Shepard handle to hit his ball?

NASA, JSC, ASU, Andy Saunders
“Appeared like a slice to me, Al,” quipped Fred Haise in Mission Management after watching Shepard’s first shot that he hit into a close-by crater. Given the recognized location of the TV digital camera, Shepard’s bootprints could be recognized, displaying his stance for his first two makes an attempt – when he took “extra grime than ball”.

“We are able to now pretty precisely decide that ball primary travelled 24 yards, and ball quantity two travelled 40 yards,” says Cheshire-based Saunders, who has been working with the United States Golf Affiliation (USGA)external-link to mark the anniversary.

“Sadly, even the spectacular second shot might hardly be described as ‘miles and miles and miles’, however after all this has solely ever been considered a light-hearted exaggeration.”

A photo of the 1971 lunar landing site taken in 2009
Utilizing a recognized scale from photographs taken by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, a spacecraft launched in 2009 that took this picture in 2011, the purpose between divot and ball can then be measured.

Whereas these distances might seem underwhelming, it’s nonetheless an astonishing feat by Shepard, who in 1961 was the primary American to journey into area, a decade earlier than he turned the fifth man to stroll on the moon.

“The moon is successfully one big, unraked, rock-strewn bunker,” continues Saunders.

“The pressurised fits severely restricted motion, and as a consequence of their helmet’s visors they struggled to even see their toes.

“I might problem any membership golfer to go to their native course and attempt to hit a six-iron, one-handed, with a one-quarter swing out of an unraked bunker.

“Then think about being totally suited, helmeted and sporting thick gloves. Keep in mind additionally that there was little gravity to tug the clubhead down towards the ball.

“The truth that Shepard even made contact and obtained the ball airborne is extraordinarily spectacular.”

The position of the two golf balls on the Moon
Film footage from the Lunar Module in 1971 was used to establish each balls. The ‘Javelin’ was a pole from a photo voltaic wind experiment, hurled by crewmate Edgar Mitchell

Andy Saunders is an imaging specialist and writer of the upcoming e-book Apollo Remastered. Having beforehand produced the clearest ever picture of Neil Armstrong on the Moon, and revealed life on board the stricken Apollo 13 mission, he usually shares the remastered photographs on social media. Comply with him on Twitter: @AndySaunders_1external-link and Instagram: @andysaunders_1external-link

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