What is the first sport mankind played in space?

The first sport mankind played in space is golf.Sports

More than half a century has passed since human beings entered space. Progress in the space projects and science fields is remarkable. However, the universe is still far away for many people. Except for a few, such as astronauts and researchers, it’s not a place for the general public to live. Cultures such as sports will take root in space still far in the future.

However, in the early days of space exploration, which was always next to death, sports were being played outside the earth.

The first sport mankind played in space

Moon golf at Apollo 14

Golf is said to be the first sport that humankind has played in space.

As part of manned space flight program by USA’s NASA (The National Aeronautics and Space Administration), Apollo 14 carried out a nine-day mission from January 31st to February 9th, 1971.

The launch was postponed to verify and fix the problems, as Apollo 13 exploded, was unable to land on the moon and narrowly escaped from death to return to the earth.

In spite of such a tense situation, commander Alan Shepard securely put several golf balls and a custom-made club in his sock and kept them on board.

The Saturn V rocket was launched on January 31st. Of the three crew members, Apollo command module pilot Stuart Roosa remained in lunar orbit, conducting scientific experiments and photographing the moon.

Commander Alan Shepard headed for the moon with the lunar module pilot Edgar Mitchell and landed safely on the Fra Mauro Highlands on February 5th.

They carried out photo shooting and scientific experiments, and 42.80 kg of stones were collected in 2 extravehicular activities (EVA). The first EVA was 4 hours 47 minutes 50 seconds. Then the second EVA took place on February 6th was 4 hours 34 minutes 41 seconds. At the end of the second EVA, where breathing and heart rate rose due to hard work, commander Alan Shepard put into action the long-held plan when he came into view of the camera.

“Houston, you might recognize what I have in my hand is the handle for 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 pellet. I drop it down. Unfortunately, the suit is so stiff, I can’t do this with 2 hands. But I’m going to try a little sand-trap shot here.”

A custom-made club was held in the commander’s right hand. This is a modified Wilson 6-iron golf clubhead attached to the tip of the sampling tool. It weighs 16.5 ounces (approximately 468g), which is a little heavy, but must have felt light on the moon.

Due to the rugged structure of the EVA suit, the range of arm motion was limited and it was not possible to grip with both hands and only small backswing was possible, in addition, it was deeply sanded like a bunker around the feet.

When it became silent at the first swing, the lunar module pilot Edgar Mitchell quickly teased. “You got more dirt than a ball that time.”

The second one also got caught in the sand and the ball just rolled a little to the side instead of going forward.

Commander Alan Shepard said, “Here we go again,” pulled himself together and made his third swing.

“Straight as a die. 1 more.”

The fourth swing made a satisfactory hit and as soon as the ball flew, commander Alan Shepard looked into the distance and proudly shouted, “Miles and miles and miles.”

Safe return but disappointed voices at the results

On February 9th, Kitty Hawk, carrying 3 astronauts, splashed down approximately 765 nautical miles south of American Samoa. Then, returned safely to the Contiguous United States in a helicopter. This was the last space mission for the three.

While it has brought many harvests, some scientists on the earth were said to be dissatisfied with the achievements of Apollo 14. Geologists were disappointed that the rocks collected at the important exploration site, the Corn Crater, were limited and they could not reach the crater edge as the surface was steeper than expected.

As an aside, the Royal & Ancient Golf Club (R & A) in Scotland, Britain, which is the original home of golf, also congratulated commander Alan Shepard on his achievements, but along with a witty joke also, pointing that it was a violation of manners not to even out the footprints on the bunker.

Practice wearing a spacesuit in a quiet course bunker

Golf was not the official mission for Apollo 14. So why was it golf but not baseball? That’s because commander Alan Shepard was a big fan of golf, but that wasn’t the only reason and something triggered it.

In 1970 when the actor Bob Hope, famous for always carrying a golf club, visited NASA facilities in Houston, they jokingly talked about golf on the moon, then commander Alan Shepard came up with the idea of ​​a moon shot that demonstrates the gravity of the moon, which is one sixth of the earth.

This moonshot project was carried out in secret as a surprise plan. Jack Harden of the River Oaks Country Club in Houston created the clubhead and finished it with NASA’s technical assistance. It’s said that the production cost was on the own expense of commander Alan Shepard.

It’s said that commander Alan Shepard, wearing a spacesuit weighing about 100 kg, was practicing swings in a bunker when no people were on the course in Houston.

The NASA director Bob Gilruth Initially objected, “absolutely no way,” but the permission was given after explaining in detail that the 2 golf balls and the club wouldn’t burden taxpayers, and promising to go ahead only after all explorations and missions were completed without problems.

Lunar golf replay “Real moon shot”

At the end of the lunar mission, commander Alan Shepard spoke cheerfully to Houston and made 4 swings while running commentary by himself.

The first 2 swings got caught in the sand. Those may be the real moon shots because he hit the moon instead of the ball. In the third attempt, he regained his control and hit the ball straight. In addition, the fourth shot was a cleaner hit.

Battle for the lunar golf club breaks out

Commander Alan Shepard kept the club beside him after returning to the earth, but donated the club to the United States Golf Association (USGA) at the 1974 US Open Winged Foot and it’s exhibited at the USGA Museum in New Jersey. The replica created was handed over to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. This club is one of the USGA’s most popular exhibits.

In fact, there were interesting exchanges behind this story. When NASA told commander Alan Shepard that they were considering exhibiting it at the Smithsonian, he said that he had already donated it to the USGA Museum. NASA said, “That’s government property,” so a replica was made and donated to settle it. At first, NASA strongly opposed the lunar golf plan, but it seems that they flipped over their hands and heat up for it.

The prominent singer Bing Crosby, who was a member of the USGA Committee, wrote to commander Alan Shepard in 1972 to the effect that the USGA Museum would be an ideal storage place for the club. For that reason, he may have decided to donate the precious lunar club, it’s said.

The fact that commander Alan Shepard really donated the original one to the USGA is an episode that makes us think that he might have liked golf more than space. Or did he respect the first-come-first-served basis?

The USGA say that it’s interesting because commander Alan Shepard’s club looks different from a regular golf club.

Wilson Staff Dyna-Power 6-Iron Head is attached to a five-piece disassemblable sample return made of aluminum and teflon. Disassemblable golf clubs are not normally used, but this was done because of strict weight control for rocket launches.

Foreshadow of historic achievements: Near miss to loop a bridge in a test flight

“So far I’m the only person to have hit a golf ball on the moon. Probably will be for some time,” commander Alan Shepard.

On July 21st, 1969, Apollo 11’s Neil Armstrong stepped on the moon for the first time in human history. Alan Shepard, the fifth and oldest man to land on the moon at the age of 47, and the first to play sports in space, departed from this world at the age of 74 on the same July 21st, 1998.

In fact, incidents which may be the foreshadowing of Alan Shepard’s achievements dates back to the Navy pilot era.

While he was a test pilot at the Patuxent River Naval Air Base in Maryland, he was nearly court-martialed by performing the acrobatics of looping the Chesapeake Bay Bridge at ultra-high speed and ultra-low altitude despite it’s the test flight. However, he managed to get away with it somehow by the efforts of his seniors.

Then, in 1959, shortly after NASA was founded, he was selected as one of the first astronauts, “Mercury Seven.” Alan Shepard must have been able to make history because of his skills, courage, adventurousness and extraordinary playfulness.

The second sport in space played in human history is “javelin throw”

In fact, the second sport in space in human history was also played at the Apollo 14 mission.

Inspired perhaps by commander Alan Shepard, the lunar module pilot Edgar Mitchell flew the handle of the sample tool like a javelin throw.

Commander Alan Shepard said, “There is the greatest javelin throw of the century,” and Edgar Mitchell said, “Let’s see if it is,” and released it with his left hand.

Captain Alan Shepard exclaimed, “Outstanding! Right in the middle of the crater.”

Edgar Mitchell was also convinced, saying that “Wasn’t bad at all.” The spear landed close to the first shot of commander Alan Shepard.

It was a fairly simple one that he threw the equipment that was originally there, and it feels like improvisation.

It’s unclear if Edgar Mitchell had NASA’s permission, but he should not have been blamed.

Edgar Mitchell, the sixth man to step on the moon, departed for commander Alan Shepard’s place at the age of 85 on February 4th, 2016, the 45th anniversary of the launch of Apollo 14.

Has Apollo 14 commander Alan Shepard exaggerated the distance?

Author: Takuya Nagata Amazon Profile

A novel writer and creator. Traveled to Brazil and trained football at CFZ do Rio (Centro de Futebol Zico Sociedade Esportiva) in Rio de Janeiro. Played soccer for the Urawa Reds (Urawa Red Diamonds), one of the biggest football clubs in Japan, and toured Europe. Retired at a young age and voyaged alone to England and graduated from UCA, the UK’s university. Established careers as a journalist, football coach, consultant, etc. across Europe such as Spain. Knowledgeable in creative and technology fields as well. The founder of “Propulsive Football” (PROBALL), the world’s first-ever competitive mixed football facilitating diversity and spirits for equal participation in society.

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References:
https://www.usga.org/content/usga/home-page/articles/2021/02/shepard-moon-club-50th-anniversary-usga-museum.html
https://www.usga.org/content/usga/home-page/articles/2019/02/three-things-alan-shepard-moon-club.html
https://www.nasa.gov/centers/johnson/rocketpark/apollo_14.html
https://airandspace.si.edu/collection-objects/head-golf-club-apollo-14-replica/nasm_A19751468000
https://airandspace.si.edu/exhibitions/apollo-to-the-moon/online/later-missions/apollo-14.cfm