Allan Shepard It is an important part of America’s space history. He was the first NASA astronaut to make a suborbital flight, the second human after the Soviet Yuri Gagarin. In addition, he became the fifth person to reach the Moon.
And the first and only one to play golf on our natural satellite.
Born in New Hampshire in 1923 (November 18 marks the 100th anniversary of his birth), Alan Bartlett Shepard Jr. was a pilot in World War II before joining NASA.
Member of the Mercury Seven, the first American astronauts, on May 5, 1961, he made a suborbital flight aboard the capsule of the Mercury Redstone 3 spacecraft.
He did it 23 days after Yuri Gagarin reached space. Although he dealt a blow to America’s ego, they were able to pay it back in a big way, taking Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin to the Moon in 1969.
Shepard would interrupt his work as an astronaut for 10 years, due to a disease that caused him vertigo. After an operation, he joined the Apollo Program.
Alan Shepard, at the golf course called Luna
In 1971, Shepard commanded the Apollo 14 mission, landing on the Moon on February 5, 1971, along with Ed Mitchell. But Shepard wanted to leave more than just his mark and, with a specially prepared NASA golf club, he hit two shots.
It was difficult, cumbersome because of the suit, but with one hand he sent two balls flying. The first, at 22 meters; the second, at 37 meters.
According to the Space portal, the astronaut had the idea after a visit by comedian Bob Hope to the then NASA Manned Spacecraft Center, now the Johnson Space Center. Hope always appeared in his acts with a golf club, and that’s how Shepard was inspired for his act.
With the shots, Shepard also demonstrated the gravitational pull of the Moon, which is one sixth that of the Earth.
Where are the balls and golf club used by the astronaut?
Before traveling to the Moon, he spoke with the director of the space center, Bob Gilruth, about his plan. After an initial refusal, Shepard talked him into it.
“I want to wait until the end of the mission, stand in front of the TV camera, hit these golf balls with this makeshift club, fold it up, put it in my pocket, go upstairs and close the door,” Shepard told Gilruth. Sure enough, he did.
The two balls were left on the moon, while the club, a Wilson Staff Dyna-Power 6 iron head attached to a sampling tool, was on loan to the United States Golf Association Museum in New Jersey.
Alan Shepard would die on July 21, 1998, at the age of 74, a victim of leukemia. He today he is not only one of the most respected astronauts in history, but also the only space golfer.