It was a typical agenda for a spacewalk Wednesday. Attach a space station antenna and install a proton detector to monitor solar eruptions.
But first, some golf.
In a promotion for a Canadian manufacturer of golf clubs, a Russian astronaut used a 6-iron to drive a 10-ounce golf ball off the international space station.
Mikhail Tyurin had to make the shot one-handed, with a foot jammed into a ladder to keep him steady.
The station commander, Capt. Michael Lopez-Alegria of the Navy, was the caddie, placing the ball on a special tee and standing by in case his colleague slipped.
It was the latest commercial venture by the Russian Space Agency, which is receiving an undisclosed amount from Element 21 Golf of Toronto. The agency has also taken tourists to the station, despite initial objections from NASA.
The U.S. space agency approved the golf outing after it was satisfied that the fragile solar panels on the station would not be in danger or that the ball would not settle into the dangerous flotilla of space junk along the flight path of the station.
"This isn't the type of experiment that would be typically designed and conducted for the U.S. program," Kirk Shireman, deputy manager of the NASA space station office, said. "But if it's done by the Russians for their purposes and does serve the purpose of captivating students, I'm glad to do it, as long as it's a safe thing to execute."
The ball sailed into orbit trailing the station.
In a few days, it should succumb to Earth's gravity and burn up in the upper atmosphere, Shireman said.
At least one other golf ball is out there. On the Apollo 14 mission in 1971, Alan Shepard Jr. used a makeshift club for a long drive that he boasted went "miles and miles." That ball landed in the Fra Mauro region on the moon.
[New York Times]