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 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?
“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) 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.”
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.”
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_1 and Instagram: @andysaunders_1