Thursday, November 23, 2006


Russian fires off space golf shot
Tyurin has only played golf twice before
The tee-off in space
A Russian cosmonaut has made golfing history by firing a tee shot from a precarious perch outside the International Space Station (ISS).

Flight engineer Mikhail Tyurin stood on a ladder by the docking port and hit a light-weight ball using a gold-plated six-iron club.

A Canadian golf club maker has paid the Russian space agency an undisclosed sum for the stunt.

Experts disagree on how far the ball will travel in space.

The sponsor, Element 21 Golf, says it will fly for three years, while the US space agency (Nasa) says it will more probably fall into the Earth's atmosphere and burn up within three days.

Although a likely record breaker in terms of distance, it is not the first golf stroke in space.

US astronaut Alan Sheppard took a shot while on the surface of the Moon as commander of Apollo 14 in 1971.

'Excellent shot'

Mr Tyurin's tee-time was delayed for nearly two hours by a kink in the cooling line to his spacesuit. He then spent 16 minutes setting up the shot.

I've been practising... I think I'm in good enough shape
Mikhail Tyurin

The cosmonaut, who has only played golf twice in his life, tapped the ball using only one arm due to the confines of the bulky space suit.

"OK, there it goes," said Mr Tyurin. "It went pretty far. It was an excellent shot."

Station commander Michael Lopez-Alegria, who is accompanying Mr Tyurin, set up a camera to film the shot for a forthcoming television commercial.

The stunt is one of several that the Russian space agency has permitted as a way of raising money.

Pizza Hut has been allowed to put its logo on a rocket and paying tourists have been brought to the station.

The plan was stalled for months while Nasa - barred by US law from raising private funding - made sure the ball would not come back and hit the station.

But Nasa flight director Holly Ridings said it was safe. "There is absolutely no re-contact issue with the space station," she said.


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