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How far did the moon shot actually go?

An image showing where Alan Shepard hit the golf balls from and to on the Moon
This image consists of six photos taken from the Lunar Module, enhanced and stitched proper right into a single panorama to point the landing scene, along with the placement from the place Shepard hit the balls

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

The first he shanked proper 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, could correctly have hit his ball that far on 6 February 1971 – no matter solely using a makeshift six iron that he had long-established out of a collapsible software program 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 related it to – this image is reproduced courtesy of america Golf Affiliation which has the merchandise in its museum as part of the Moon shot assortment

The one footage that exists is grainy video shot side-on from one television digicam. And there was no ball-tracking experience.

Nonetheless imaging specialist Andy Saunders has digitally enhanced newest high-resolution scans of the distinctive photographic film, and utilized a stacking methodology on smaller 16mm ‘movie’ footage shot by the crew, and managed to seek out the second ball and work out how far it actually went.

The Moon’s lack of gravity will certainly have helped and Saunders says big-hitting US Open champion Bryson DeChambeau could, theoretically, blast a ball 3.41 miles inside the rarefied air – nearly the measurement of an 18-hole golf course – with a hangtime of 1 minute and 22 seconds, had been he to take his quest for additional distance to extreme lengths.

So, how far did Shepard deal with to hit his ball?

NASA, JSC, ASU, Andy Saunders
“Appeared like a slice to me, Al,” quipped Fred Haise in Mission Administration after watching Shepard’s first shot that he hit right into a close-by crater. Given the acknowledged location of the TV digicam, Shepard’s bootprints may very well be acknowledged, exhibiting his stance for his first two makes an try – when he took “additional filth than ball”.

“We are going to now fairly exactly determine that ball major traveledled 24 yards, and ball amount two traveledled 40 yards,” says Cheshire-based Saunders, who has been working with the United States Golf Association (USGA)external-link to mark the anniversary.

“Sadly, even the spectacular second shot could hardly be described as” miles and miles and miles “, nonetheless in any case this has solely ever been considered a light-hearted exaggeration.”

A photo of the 1971 lunar landing site taken in 2009
Using a acknowledged scale from images taken by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, a spacecraft launched in 2009 that took this {photograph} in 2011, the objective between divot and ball can then be measured.

Whereas these distances might sound underwhelming, it’s nonetheless an astonishing feat by Shepard, who in 1961 was the major American to journey into home, a decade sooner than he turned the fifth man to walk on the moon.

“The moon is efficiently one large, unraked, rock-strewn bunker,” continues Saunders.

“The pressurized suits severely restricted movement, and as a consequence of their helmet’s visors they struggled to even see their ft.

“I would drawback any membership to go to their native course and try to hit a six-iron, one-handed, with a one-quarter swing out of an unraked bunker.”

“Then take into consideration being completely suited, helmeted and sporting thick gloves. Take note moreover that there was little gravity to pull the clubhead down in path of the ball.

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

The position of the two golf balls on the Moon
Movie footage from the Lunar Module in 1971 was used to find out every balls. The ‘Javelin’ was a pole from a photograph voltaic wind experiment, hurled by crewmate Edgar Mitchell

Andy Saunders is an imaging specialist and creator of the upcoming e book Apollo Remastered. Having beforehand produced the clearest ever image of Neil Armstrong on the Moon, and revealed life on board the stricken Apollo 13 mission, he generally shares the remastered images on social media. Adjust to him on Twitter: @ AndySaunders_1external-link and Instagram: @ andysaunders_1external-link

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