Even America's greatest heroes exaggerate sometimes. Alan Shepard is famous not only for walking on the Moon during the Apollo 14 mission, but also for knocking a golf ball "miles and miles and miles" while up there. Well ... maybe not quite.
Using modern technology, scans of the flight film, and some serious calculations, analysts determined that the ball – the second Shepard drove – actually only traveled about 40 yards (37 m).
Although that distance might not seem particularly impressive (though it's certainly better than his first ball, which Mission Control communicator Fred Haise called a slice), considering that the Moon is a big, rocky surface with no decent lie and that Shepard was in full astronaut gear, it was actually quite a feat. Plus, no one can take away the fact that when Shepard hit those balls on February 6, 1971, he became the first person to play a sport on another world.
Shepard in space:
- Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin was the first man in space, but Shepard became the first American, and the first astronaut to be able to control the orientation of his spacecraft, Freedom 7, during his May 5, 1961, mission.
- Delayed for three hours on his first flight, Shepard was allowed to urinate in his spacesuit; the urine evaporated quickly in space.
- Shepard was also a successful businessman: he was the first astronaut to become a millionaire.