Who's keeping score? NASA gets new look at the golf balls on the Moon

Written on 02/07/2021
Ciarán Mather

The location of two golf balls left by Apollo 14 astronaut Alan B. Shephard, Jr. on Earth's moon 50 years ago this week has officially been determined.

According to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), one of its imaging specialists, Andy Saunders, managed to enhance photos of the event from the organisation's archives.

Mr. Saunders reported that his findings were made in association with the United States Golfing Association (USGA). 

Saunders concluded that the first golf ball Shepard putted on the historic lunar mission travelled roughly 24 yards, while the second golf ball travelled around 40 yards.

Golfing and space fans alike took to Twitter to unload their comedic takes in response to the images:

Interestingly, it was none other than the beloved late comedian Bob Hope who gave Shephard the idea to play golf on the moon! 

During a visit to NASA in the 1970s, Hope joked to Shephard about playing golf on the moon - Shephard not only liked the joke, but it made him think how it would be an interesting and unique way to convey to people watching back on Earth the difference in the strength of gravity. 

The inspired astronaut later hired a golfing pro named Jack Harden at the River Oaks Country Club in Texas to adapt a Wilson Staff 6-iron head so that it could be attached to a collapsible aluminum and Teflon sample collector. 

Then, like a scene from The Karate Kid or Rocky, Shepard practiced his golf swing at a course in Houston while wearing his 200-plus-pound spacesuit to prepare.

Eventually, Shephard brought the two golf balls and his clubs with him on the Apollo 14 mission, and decided to finally make the first intergalactic golf put on the moon, where he hit a hole in one (or rather, a crater in one?)

Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction!

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