Image: Golf shot
A NASA illustration shows how Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Tyurin will set up for a tee-off during Wednesday's spacewalk. Tyurin would use only one hand on the club because the spacesuit is too awkward to accommodate a two-handed grip.
updated 11/17/2006 8:24:33 PM ET 2006-11-18T01:24:33

Never mind that he has played golf only twice in his life. Next week the Russian flight engineer aboard the international space station will hit a drive that even Tiger Woods couldn't match.

Cosmonaut Mikhail Tyurin plans to begin a spacewalk set for Wednesday evening by knocking a lightweight golf ball off a tee placed on the top of the Russian docking port.

"I play ice hockey, and my understanding is that it is very similar," Tyurin said in an interview during which he discussed the stunt, part of the Russian space agency's quest for commercial contributions.

Club maker Element 21 Golf Co. of Toronto is paying the Russians an undisclosed amount for Tyurin's time, which included plenty of practice swings aboard the space station.

"Of course the crew is taking this very, very seriously, so they've been doing a lot of practice," said NASA flight director Holly Ridings.

Federal law bars the U.S. space agency from getting any money for its involvement.

NASA held up the golf shot for months while safety experts pored over possible flight paths for the ball to make sure it would not head back toward the station as a dangerous bit of orbital debris.

"No question it's safe," Tyurin said before his flight.

"Our safety community has done a lot of work to understand and get ready for this task," Ridings said. "There is absolutely no re-contact issue with the space station."

Slideshow: Month in Space: January 2014 Tyurin, who has been aboard the station since September, isn't expected to smack the ball, just tap it with the club. The ball itself weighs just 0.16 ounces (4.5 grams) instead of the standard-issue 1.6 ounces (45 grams).

Tyurin has to make the shot one-handed because his bulky spacesuit prevents him from bringing his hands together.

Station commander Michael Lopez-Alegria, who is accompanying Tyurin during the spacewalk, will help set up a camera to film the shot for an upcoming television commercial.

Tyurin's drive is expected to be one for the record books, though not everyone agrees on how long the ball will fly. NASA figures it will fall into Earth's atmosphere and be incinerated within three days. Element 21 Golf is betting on three years.

During the Apollo 14 moon mission in 1971, U.S. astronaut Alan Shepard hit a golf ball with a six-iron from the lunar surface and boasted that it traveled "miles and miles" in the low-gravity atmosphere.

Copyright 2012 Thomson Reuters. Click for restrictions.


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