Astronaut’s Golf Shot Pulled from Next ISS Spacewalk
ISS Expedition 11 commander Sergei Krikalev rehearses a golf swing in preparation for a spacewalk shot by Expedition 13 commander Pavel Vinogradov, a fellow cosmonaut, as part of an agreement between Russia's Federal Space Agency and Canada's Element 21 golf company.
Credit: NASA/Roscosmos/Element 21.

Space station commander Pavel Vinogradov will not smack a golf ball into orbit outside the International Space Station (ISS) during a planned spacewalk next week, NASA officials have said.

Vinogradov, commander of the station's Expedition 13 mission, was slated to hit a golf ball into space during a June 1 spacewalk as part of an agreement between Russia's Federal Space Agency and the Canadian golf equipment firm Element 21 (E21) Golf Co.

"It's definitely not in this one," NASA ISS spokesperson Kylie Clem told of the golf shot. "We've been told that it's been pushed to the next [Russian] spacewalk."

Clem said a specific reason for the postponement was not given, though Russian spacewalk planners continue to work out the timeline for the upcoming extravehicular activity (EVA). During that spacewalk, Vinogradov and Expedition 13 flight engineer Jeffrey Williams are expected to don Russian-built Orlan spacesuits and install a new hydrogen vent line for the station's Elektron oxygen generator, replace a camera on the outpost's railcar-like Mobile Transporter and perform other tasks.

The camera replacement was a late addition by NASA station managers, Clem said, adding that the U.S. activity does not appear to be a driving factor for the golf shot's move.  

Clem said the golf shot is now scheduled for the next Russian ISS spacewalk, set for November, by Expedition 14 astronauts Michael Lopez-Alegria and Mikhail Tyurin.

The golf activity is part of Toronto-based Element 21's publicity campaign to commemorate this year's 35th anniversary of astronaut Alan Shepard's Moon golf antics during NASA's Apollo 14 lunar mission. Video from the event will be used in an upcoming commercial, and the golf ball to be hit is packed with transmitters so its flight - expected to last up to three years - can be tracked via Element 21's website.

"Just about every single record for distance in the golf industry will be shattered this fall when an astronaut will hit a golf ball into orbit around the Earth using an E21 golf club," Element 21 said in a statement earlier this month.

A gold-plated Element 21 six iron, several golf balls, an equipment bag, tee and specially-built platform were hauled to the ISS alongside regular supplies by unmanned Russian cargo ships in anticipation of the orbital birdie.

Despite the event's postponement, NASA ISS officials will proceed with a safety review to ensure the golf swing or flying ball itself will pose no hazard to the space station. Russian cosmonaut Sergei Krikalev, who commanded Expedition 11 aboard the ISS, participated in previous orbital tests during his term aboard the station.

"We're still going to continue with the safety evaluation and have it done as soon as possible," Clem said.

Element 21 is not the first firm to seek commercial video activities aboard the ISS. Last year, Japan's Nissin Food Products Co. filmed a commercial featuring a Russian cosmonaut inside the station as part of its "Cup Noodle No Border" campaign using a camera launched to the ISS for the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA).

Meanwhile, Expedition 13's Vinogradov and Williams are gearing up for their planned five-hour and 40-minute spacewalk next week. The EVA, to be the sixth for Vinogradov and the second for Williams, is the first of two spacewalks planned for the Expedition 13 mission.