Cosmonaut Gets Ready for Monster Tee-Off in Space

ByABC News
November 19, 2006, 11:56 AM

Nov. 20, 2006 — -- Tiger Woods is a better golf player than Mikhail Tyurin. But he will never match Russian cosmonaut for distance.

When Tyurin hits a golf ball this week, he will be on the International Space Station, 220 miles above the Earth, orbiting at 17,500 miles per hour. It will be a stunt staged for a Canadian golf club manufacturer Element 21 Golf Co. of Toronto, which paid the Russian Space Agency an undisclosed amount for the event.

Tyurin will float out of the Space Station along with American astronaut Michael Lopez-Alegria for a six-hour spacewalk. Before they get down to serious work, golf will come first. This is how it is configured on the spacewalk timeline:

23:28 Secure tee on EVA ladder. Configure TV cam to operating position

23:38 Strike the ball. Desired trajectory: along ?SM axis, -VV, deviation 30 degrees, velocity 1 mps ± 0.2 mps

The gold stunt is the first event during a spacewalk with some serious tasks as well. Besides the golf swing, the spacewalkers need to check out an antenna on the Russian spacecraft Progress that seemed to fail when the supply ship docked at the space station last month.

How do you hit a golf ball in zero gravity? Tyurin will start by attaching a spring mounted tee shaped like an ice cream cone to the ladder next to the Pirs (Russian for "pier") airlock on the space station. He will then use a gold plated six iron to gently hit a gold plated golf ball into orbit.

The ball weighs about the same as three paper clips, 0.16 ounces -- much less than a standard golf ball, which is 1.6 ounces. Tyurin's hit will end up being the longest drive ever because this ball is expected to travel a couple million miles before it plunges into the Earth's orbit and burns up in two or three days.

Flight Director Holly Ridings, who is overseeing the spacewalk in Mission Control, says the golf stunt poses no danger to the space station.

"Tyurin will push the ball off backwards. There is absolutely no re-contact issue with the space station," she said.