UPDATE: The first tennis match in space is in the record books! Read our full story here: Tennis in Space, Anyone? Astronauts Have a Ball During Historic Match
History is about to be made as astronauts are set to play the first-ever tennis match in space.
Tonight (Aug. 21), NASA astronaut Drew Feustel, commander of Expedition 56 aboard the International Space Station, will attempt to play the first game of tennis in space, with crewmates Ricky Arnold, Serena Auñón-Chancellor (both of NASA) and Alexander Gerst (of the European Space Agency).
In Flushing Meadows Corona Parkin Queens, New York — where the US Open will be held from Aug. 21 to Sept. 9 — the space-based match will be shown through 3D projection mapping on the Unisphere, the large, metal globe that once served as the centerpiece of the 1964-1965 New York World's Fair. This will also mark the first time that a video will be projected on the Unisphere.
The United States Tennis Association began working with Feustel on this effort in December 2017, and the association hopes this match will inspire young tennis players to take an interest in space exploration, according to a statement emailed to Space.com.
When Feustel arrived at the space station, he expressed his hope that this historic match would eventually happen. "Tennis is one of my loves," he said earlier this year at a NASA briefing. "Maybe we'll get to play some tennis in space."
Physical fitness is essential for astronauts to stay healthy and fit in the microgravity environment aboard the space station. Astronauts have to exercise for at least 2 hours every day to prevent their muscles and bones from wasting away. So this tennis game is an impressive first, but it also demonstrates an important aspect of life in space.