Alan Bartlett Shepard was one of the earliest pioneers of America’s space exploration efforts in the early 1960s and became just the second person – and first American – to travel into space in 1961. Shepard was also originally slated to be one of the crew members on the infamous Apollo 13 mission, but he swapped missions with the crew of Apollo 14 in order to receive more training time for his space expedition.
While Apollo 13 grabbed more headlines, Shepard made some waves of his own during the Apollo 14 mission by hitting a golf shot that was, quite literally, out of this world.
According to PGA.com, Shepard wanted to do “something special” while on the moon and decided to take a few hacks on the unfriendly lie that is the moon’s surface.
Here’s how it went down on February 6th, 1971, courtesy of PGA.com
“He contacted a local club pro in Houston, who connected the head of a six-iron to the shaft of a piece of rock collecting equipment. Shepard then covered the club with a sock so it wouldn’t be discovered before launch.
Only a handful of people in NASA knew of Shepard’s plan when, after an extended excursion on the lunar surface, he pulled out the club, dropped two balls on the moon.”
Whether it was nerves, less gravity, or the difficulty that taking a free golf swing in a space suit might present, Shepard shanked the first shot he attempted from the moon.
But hey, that’s what mulligans are for, right?
His second shot, as observed by Shepard himself, traveled for “miles and miles and miles.” Of course, golfers do tend to exaggerate how far they can hit the ball, but thanks to there being less gravity on the moon’s surface, it’s quite possible that Shepard’s ball flew a few miles before settling down somewhere on the moon’s surface.
I09, a science blog operated by Gizmodo, actually took Shepard’s “miles and miles and miles” claim to theoretical physicist Ethan Siegel who corroborated Shepard’s story.
“(Siegel) found that, assuming the golfing astronaut knew how to adjust his approach to properly take advantage of the Moon’s environment, he could easily hit the ball 2.5 miles.
Perhaps even more amazingly, the ball would likely stay in the air for about 70 seconds before finally coming to a rest. Shepard’s shot likely wasn’t quite perfect enough to make it that far, but he probably was right in his initial observation that the ball went over a mile into the distance.”
According to PGA.com, Shepard donated the club to the USGA (United States Golf Association) Museum in 1974.
Since Shepard’s famous shot, no other astronaut has attempted to hit a ball off the moon.
Shepard passed away in 1998 from Leukemia at age 74, but his historic legacy as an astronaut and the world’s foremost lunar-based golfer will remain forever.
Bryan Altman is, for some reason, an unabashed fan of the Rangers, Jets and Mets. If he absolutely had to pick a basketball team it would be the Knicks, but he’d gladly trade them for just one championship for any of his other three teams.