Astronaut’s Golf Shot Pulled from Next ISS Spacewalk

Next ISS Commander's Spacewalk Golf Shot Raises Concerns
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.
(Image: © NASA/Roscosmos/Element 21.)

Spacestation commander PavelVinogradov will not smack a golf ball into orbit outside the InternationalSpace Station (ISS) during a planned spacewalk next week, NASA officials havesaid.

Vinogradov,commander of the station's Expedition13 mission, was slatedto hit a golf ball into space during a June 1 spacewalk as part of an agreementbetween Russia's Federal Space Agency and the Canadian golf equipment firmElement 21 (E21) Golf Co.

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

Clem said aspecific reason for the postponement was not given, though Russian spacewalkplanners continue to work out the timeline for the upcoming extravehicularactivity (EVA). During that spacewalk, Vinogradov and Expedition 13 flightengineer JeffreyWilliams are expected to don Russian-built Orlan spacesuitsand install a new hydrogen vent line for the station's Elektronoxygen generator, replace a camera on the outpost's railcar-like MobileTransporter and perform other tasks.

The camerareplacement was a late addition by NASA station managers, Clem said, addingthat the U.S. activity does not appear to be a driving factor for the golfshot's move.  

Clem saidthe golf shot is now scheduled for the next Russian ISS spacewalk, set forNovember, by Expedition14 astronauts Michael Lopez-Alegria and Mikhail Tyurin.

The golf activityis part of Toronto-based Element 21's publicity campaign to commemorate thisyear's 35th anniversary of astronaut Alan Shepard's Moongolf antics during NASA's Apollo14 lunar mission. Video from the event will be used in an upcomingcommercial, and the golf ball to be hit is packed with transmitters so itsflight - expected to last up to three years - can be tracked via Element 21'swebsite.

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

Agold-plated Element 21 six iron, several golf balls, an equipment bag, tee andspecially-built platform were hauledto the ISS alongside regular supplies by unmanned Russian cargo ships inanticipation of the orbital birdie.

Despite theevent's postponement, NASA ISS officials will proceed with a safety review toensure the golf swing or flying ball itself will pose no hazard to the spacestation. Russian cosmonaut SergeiKrikalev, who commanded Expedition11 aboard the ISS, participatedin previous orbital tests during his term aboard the station.

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

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

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

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