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  How far did Alan Shepard's golf ball go?

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Author Topic:   How far did Alan Shepard's golf ball go?
DChudwin
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Posts: 972
From: Lincolnshire IL USA
Registered: Aug 2000

posted 10-03-2010 05:17 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for DChudwin   Click Here to Email DChudwin     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Here is a post from the io9 blog about Alan Shepard's golf shot from the lunar surface on Apollo 14:
Apollo 14 astronaut Alan Shepard famously took a golf ball along with him to the Moon, making him the first person to play golf on another world. But just how far did his shot travel? One physicist has the answer.

After taking his second shot, Shepard observed the ball seemed to travel for "miles and miles and miles." Theoretical astrophysicist and ScienceBlogs writer Ethan Siegel put this claim to the test, calculating just how far you could send a golf ball flying in the airless, reduced gravity environment of the Moon.

He 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.

Indeed, considering Earth's longest golf shot was probably Mike Austin's 515 yard drive in 1974, Shepard almost certainly holds the unofficial record for longest drive in human history.

Robert Pearlman
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From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 10-03-2010 05:47 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I came across this same blog entry earlier today and I wrote Ethan Siegel and Alasdair Wilkins, the io9 reporter:
Ethan, enjoyed your physics lesson about hitting a golf ball off the Moon. At the end you wrote:
Now, if only there were some good way to find that ball in the great sand trap that is the Moon's surface...
Your write-up was picked up by io9.com, where Alasdair Wilkins (copied on this e-mail) noted:
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.
In fact, Shepard hit two golf balls and the location of both are known. One was even photographed after being hit. Neither traveled anywhere close to a mile.

The first ball, which he described as going "Miles and miles and miles" landed in what came to be known as Javelin crater. It was photographed through the window of the lunar module before the astronauts left the surface of the Moon.

You can see the golf ball laying just south of the 'javelin' which gave the small crater its name. The 'javelin' was the Solar Wind Collector staff, which fellow moonwalker Ed Mitchell threw as a make-shift javelin.

In a post-flight interview, Alan Shepard said the second ball he hit fell near where they deployed Apollo Lunar Surface Experiment Package, or ALSEP.

You can see the layout of the Apollo 14 landing site as as overlay of the imagery taken from orbit by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) in 2009.

The ALSEP was deployed less than 200 meters from the lunar module. 'Javelin' crater is much closer. Here's the full frame shot from the lunar module window.

So we know exactly where one ball is and the general vicinity of the other, neither having traveled miles...

moorouge
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posted 10-04-2010 02:18 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for moorouge   Click Here to Email moorouge     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
How far could have Shepard's golf ball gone? An extract from the 1971 edition of my booklet 'Manned Spaceflight' -
This activity raised queries as to the feasible distance a golf ball could be struck. I am informed by a mathematician, also a keen golfer, that assuming a speed off the club of 1200 f.p.s., which is average, and an elevation of 40 degrees, which is usual for a 6 iron, then a distance in the order of 900 yards could be expected. Of course, this is for an average golfer. A Nicklaus could be capable of much further, but Shepard, one handed and restricted by a spacesuit could have managed about 300 yards.
This still leaves the question as to how many golf balls Shepard took with him and how many remain on the Moon. Though I cannot find the exact reference now, I am sure that at some point Shepard gave one of the lunar balls to the pastor of his church in Houston.

garymilgrom
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From: Atlanta, GA, USA
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posted 10-04-2010 08:19 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for garymilgrom   Click Here to Email garymilgrom     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I came across a story on ESPN about an astronaut on the ISS taking a shot that went a million miles.

Robert Pearlman
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From: Houston, TX
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posted 10-04-2010 08:54 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Of related interest: ISS golf swing follows moon, shuttle shots

Steve Procter
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From: Leeds, Yorkshire, UK
Registered: Oct 2000

posted 10-04-2010 02:00 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Steve Procter   Click Here to Email Steve Procter     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
What do you think about NASA and ESA getting together sometime for the Lunar Ryder Cup!!

Blackarrow
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Posts: 2024
From: Belfast, United Kingdom
Registered: Feb 2002

posted 10-06-2010 11:50 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Blackarrow     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Apologies in advance for bruising any sensitive American egos, but I reckon that if you could put Graeme McDowell in an Apollo EVA suit on the Moon, he could DEFINITELY hit the ball "miles and miles and miles" (one-handed!) For the uninitiated, Graeme (from Northern Ireland!) won the U.S. Open earlier this year and won the final decisive Ryder Cup game,giving Europe victory. Of course, Graeme didn't achieve victory on his own: he had help from his team-mates, including Rory McIlroy (also from Northern Ireland!). Two out of the team of twelve from a wee place with 1.7 million people out of a European population of over 300 million! Of course, it helps having two of the finest golf courses in the world.

Paul78zephyr
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From: Hudson, MA
Registered: Jul 2005

posted 10-16-2010 11:22 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Paul78zephyr     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Is there speculation as to the current condition of the golf balls that Al Shepard left on the moon?

Also did Al Shepard ever say whether those golf balls were 'ordinary' or did he have them made special due to the 'unique' (i.e. vacuum) links he was going to?

compass
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posted 10-16-2010 11:34 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for compass   Click Here to Email compass     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Shepard held out for years when people asked what brand the balls were. Guess he wanted some mystery surrounding them to exist.

There may have been an advertising dimension to this also. This business with the golf balls on 14 led to numerous invites he received thereafter to various golfing tournaments. In 'Light this Candle' it discloses somewhere that they were Titleist balls.

All times are CT (US)

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