Alan Shepard: Moon Shot

"When Apollo 14 went to the moon, in 1971, it carried a rock-and-soil sampling tool that had a barrel grip and a cylindrical shaft three-quarters of an inch in diameter. Aluminum with Teflon O-rings, it was thirty-three inches long and consisted of six parts that could fit into one another to make the one shaft.

"Unbeknownst to NASA, the U.S. Navy astronaut Alan Shepard and a guy in the NASA machine shop took the head off a 6-iron and modified its hosel with a hexagonal fitting that would lock into one end of the sampler's handle. Shepard put the club head in a white athletic sock with two golf balls, concealed the package down one leg of his space suit, blasted off the big tee in Florida, and headed for the first at Lunarrama.

"After completing his duties up there, he assembled the golf club and pulled one of the balls out of the sock. Speaking on live television to the population of the planet he had left behind, and sounding just slightly like a barker in a sideshow, he said, 'In my left hand I have a little white pellet familiar to millions of Americans.' He said, 'I'm going to try a little sand-trap shot here,' and, like most golfers who routinely shoot bogey rounds, he offered an excuse beforehand: the space suit was inconveniently bulky -- 'I can't do it with two hands.'

"He swung with one hand, four times. He whiffed. He nudged a ball a few feet. He shanked into a crater. And on his fourth swing he clocked one three hundred yards."

["I thought, with the same clubhead speed, the ball's going to go at least six times as far," Shepard recalled. "There's absolutely no drag, so if you do happen to spin it, it won't slice or hook 'cause there's no atmosphere to make it turn..." The shot remained aloft for about thirty-five seconds (compared to six for a long drive on Earth). Shepard left the balls on the moon but brought the club back and later gave it to the USGA.]

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