Alan Shepard – Golf Out Of This World

Newportdunesgolf.com celebrates the 35th Anniversary of the launch of Apollo 14 with this retrospective: A series of historical photographs from the 1971 Apollo 14 lunar mission commanded by Astronaut Alan B. Shepard
First golfer on the moon is he,
Yet mad enough to pop.
Because of the lack of gravity,
The poor lad’s putt won’t drop.
– Richard Armour, Golf Is a Four-Letter Word (1962)

alan-shepardThirty-four years have passed since our most famous amateur golfer astronaut, Alan B. Shepard, Jr., described the exagerrated distance of his moon shot as “miles and miles and miles.” Those famous words followed a one-handed golf swing with a rigged up six iron on the moon. (See quotes) The first swing was reported to be a duff, but the next connected.

Although Shepard fired off those two golf balls in moon gravity which is about one-sixth of earth’s (moon fact sheet), they did not go miles and miles and miles. Shepard later appended his estimate to drive distances in the 200 to 400 yard range. Still, not bad with one hand and encumbered by a suit that prevented a good pivot on the swing. See the golf ball hit by Astronaut Alan B. Shepard, and the javelin tossed by Edgar D. Mitchell.

View-of-full-moon-from-Apollo-11-298x300

View of full moon from Apollo 11 (Source: NASA)

Alan Shepard, the first American in space, commanded Apollo 14 at age 47 in 1971. As the oldest astronaut to walk on the moon, his back-up crew characterized him as a grey bearded Wiley Coyote™. During the Apollo 14 Moon Mission from January 31, 1971 (blast off 4:03:02 P.M. EST) to February 9, 1971, Shepard spent 33 hours on the surface of the moon which included time for a couple of golf shots that were out of this world!

Here is a series of photographs with text from NASA Archives that will transport all of you who are of a certain older generation back to the hey-day of America’s moon missions. For those youngsters who stumble across this collection of photographs from Apollo 14, maybe you will get a sense of the excitement of discovery that whirled around space exploration in the decades of the ’60’s and early ’70’s. (Source of Photographs: NASA Archives)

Apollo-14_1NASA Photo ID: S71-17620 Film Type: 4×5 Date Taken: 01/31/71 Fish-eye view of the launch of the 363-foot tall Apollo 14 (spacecraft 110/Lunar Module 8/Saturn 509) space vehicle from Pad A, Launch Complex 39, Kennedy Space Center, Florida, at 4:03:02 p.m., January 31, 1971. This view of the liftoff was taken by a camera mounted on the mobile launch tower; View of the Apollo 14 launch taken from the bottom of the launch tower.

Apollo-14_2NASA Photo ID: S70-18740 Film Type: 4×5 BW Date Taken: 09/01/70 This lunar map shows the landing areas for the Apollo manned lunar landing missions that have been accomplised and the locations of six candidate sites for the remainder of the Apollo flights. Those indicated are Sea of Tranquility (Apollo 11), Ocean of Storms (Apollo 12), Fra Mauro (Apollo 14), Hadley/Apennines (Apollo 15), and Marius Hills, Descartes, Davy and Copernicus.

Apollo-14_3NASA Photo ID: S70-49764 Film Type: 120mm BW Date Taken: 12/01/70 A photographic illustration showing a near vertical view of the Apollo 14 landing site located in the Fra Mauro highlands on the lunar nearside. The predicted landing point is 17 degrees 29 minutes 46 seconds west longitude and 3 degrees 40 minutes 19 seconds south latitude. Cone Crater is at lower right. North is toward the right side of the picture (Cone Crater being located near the northeast corner of photo). The landing point is between Triplet Crater and Doublet Crater in the center of the picture.

Apollo-14_4NASA Photo ID: S70-50764 Film Type: 4×5 BW Date Taken: 09/01/70 This lunar map shows the traverse plans for the Apollo 14 lunar landing mission. Areas marked include Lunar module landing site, areas for the Apollo Lunar Surface Experiment Package (ALSEP) and areas for gathering of core samples.

Apollo-14_5

NASA Photo ID: AS14-66-9230 Film Type: 70mm Date Taken: 02/05/71 Astronaut Alan B. Shepard Jr., Apollo 14 commander, shades his eyes from the sun during the Apollo 14 extravehicular activity (EVA) on the Moon. This photograph was taken by Astronaut Edgar D. Mitchell, lunar module pilot, through the window of the Lunar Module.

Apollo-14_6NASA Photo ID: AS14-66-9340 Film Type: 70mm Date Taken: 02/06/71 A view from inside the Lunar Module following the second Apollo 14 extravehicular activity (EVA-2). At the left foreground is the Modularized Equipment Transporter (MET). Tracks made by the two-wheeled Rickshaw-type cart can be seen in the left background. The Apollo 35mm stereo close-up camera lies next to the MET, near a shadow of the erectable S-band Antenna. The area is covered with footprints made by Astronauts Alan B. Shepard JR., comander; and Edgar D. Mitchell, lunar module pilot.

Apollo-14_7NASA Photo ID: AS14-66-9337 Film Type: 70mm Date Taken: 02/06/71 View shows the javelin and golf ball used by Astronaut Alan B. Shepard Jr., Apollo 14 commander, during the mission’s second extravehicular activity (EVA-2) on Feb. 6, 1971. Just to the left of center lies the javelin, with the golf ball just below it, almost perpendicular to it. Dark colored trails are the results of tracks made by the lunar overshoes of the astronauts and the wheels of the Modularized Equipment Transporter (MET). This photograph was made through the right window of the Lunar Module, looking northwest.

Apollo-14_8NASA Photo ID: S71-16637 Film Type: 4×5 Date Taken: 01/27/71 A close-up view of the plaque which the Apollo 14 crew will leave behind on the Moon during their lunar landing mission. The seven by nine-inch stainless steel plaque will be attached to the ladder on the landing gear strut on the Lunar Module’s descent stage.

135:08:17 Shepard: (Facing the TV) Houston, while you’re looking that up, you might recognize what I have in my hand as the handle for the contingency sample return; it just so happens to have a genuine six iron on the bottom of it. In my left hand, I have a little white pellet that’s familiar to millions of Americans. I’ll drop it down. Unfortunately, the suit is so stiff, I can’t do this with two hands, but I’m going to try a little sand-trap shot here. (Pause)

[Jones – “He topped and buried it on the first swing. I assume that the six-iron was snuck on board.”]

[Mitchell – “In his suit pocket.”]

135:08:53 Mitchell: You got more dirt than ball that time.

135:08:58 Shepard: Got more dirt than ball. Here we go again.

[Al’s second swing pushes the ball about 2 or 3 feet, mostly along the line toward the TV camera, rather than along the line of the swing.]

135:09:01 Haise: That looked like a slice to me, Al.

135:09:03 Shepard: Here we go. Straight as a die; one more. (Long Pause)

[Al’s third swing finally connects and sends the ball off-camera to the right, apparently on a fairly low trajectory. He drops a second ball, which rolls left and toward the TV camera. Al gets himself in position and connects again. The trajectory of this shot appears to be similar to the previous one.]

135:09:20 Shepard: Miles and miles and miles.

135:09:26 Haise: Very good, Al.

135:09:27 Haise: And (to) answer Ed’s question earlier there; Kilo-Kilo was used for the window shots, Ed; so, you ought to bring it back.

135:09:43 Shepard: Yeah, that’s right. We got some of that to start with, didn’t we?

135:09:46 Mitchell: Yeah.

135:09:49 Shepard: (Garbled). (Long Pause)

[Al removes the club head. He brought it home and it is currently on display at the US Golf Association Hall of Fame in New Jersey.]

135:10:14 Mitchell: How many films (means “frames”) did we take with this (close-up camera)? Eleven, Huh? 135:10:17 Shepard: Ah. Approximately. 135:10:20 Mitchell: 17. Okay. (Pause)

[Al is putting the club head in his thigh pocket. Ed has removed the close-up camera from the MET and has placed it on the ground.]

135:10:30 Haise: Okay, Ed; Houston.

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Christian Adams

I love playing golf for various reasons. I am not a professional golfer, but I love playing the game for what it makes me feel. Golf is all about patience, discipline, and letting go. One primary reason I love the game so much is that it teaches me not to compete with anyone.

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