Survivor of the Second World War (Pacific side), Alan Bartlett Shepard was the first American to travel to space. It was 1961 and he did it for the Mercury project. Not only. He was also the first to play golf on the moon, 10 years later, as commander of the Apollo 14 expedition, thus realizing,as US President George Clinton said some time later, “Every golfer’s dream”. February 6, 1971: today are 50 years. Data in hand, he was the fifth man on the moon, but also the oldest to walk on it (born November 18, 1923, he was 47 years old), but only after having done resorting to surgery to solve a problem that would never allow him to do all this: Ménière’s disease. A disease of the inner ear, which causes dizziness, nausea and tinnitus (ringing in the ears). All unpleasant symptoms during a space trip (and not only).
The “secret” balls
Going back 50 years, that mission went down in history with Shepard’s decision to play golf. The stick was a handle used for the collection of lunar samples. The two balls were carried in secret and they proved useful in understanding the force of lunar gravity, although Shepard admitted that he plowed the ground rather than hitting the ball decently. But how did it really go? Imaging specialist Andy Saunders studied the photographs and videos of the time and managed to find both balls Shepard hit. According to Saunders, potentially and thanks to reduced gravity, a hard hit ball could even stay in the air for a minute and 22 seconds before falling back, running the entire length of a golf course of over five kilometers. Shepard reached 37 meters with the second throw, while with the first ball it went worse: 21 meters.
At the time, the good Shepard – who died on July 21, 1998 – could not really quantify the distance reached: «The second ball? He has traveled miles and miles “he said jokingly. Saunders scientifically explained the question as follows: “The moon is a gigantic Swiss cheese, not raked and strewn with rocks. The pressurized suits severely restricted movement, and due to their helmet visors, the astronauts could hardly see their feet. I would challenge any golfer to do better than Shepard in those conditions. The mere fact that he managed to hit the ball and make it travel that small distance is already impressive ». And in fact the gesture, however extraordinary, has remained in history.
February 6, 2021 (change February 6, 2021 | 11:02)
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