Happy Gilmore, cosmonaut

The flight engineers have weighed in, the flight directors have given the go-ahead — a Russian cosmonaut will in fact knock a golf ball off the International Space Station as a marketing stunt.

Admitting that golf is not exactly his game, flight engineer Mikhail Tyurin, told the BBC, “I play ice hockey and my understanding is that it is very similar.”

Da! And I’ve flown a Cessna 172 and I understand it’s very similar to flying a Boeing 777. On the other hand, applying his slapshot to golf worked great for Happy Gilmore.

When word of the Russian’s arrangement with golf equipment manufacturer Element 21 got out earlier this year, the folks at NASA went into a tailspin. They had unpleasant images of a regulation golf ball whizzing through space at more than 8 km/s (17,200 mph) and whacking either the ISS or some other valuable piece of orbiting machinery.

Well, the wily Russians worked out a safer arrangement. The ball will be more like a ping-pong ball than a golf ball, with a tenth a regulation golf ball’s mass, and “Happy” Tyurin will by necessity only be able to tap the ball one-handed. His bulky space suit makes attempting a regular golf swing nearly impossible.

Whatever the equipment used, the drive will likely be a record-setter, since space scientists estimate the ball will orbit the earth for three days before burning up in the atmosphere.

Now we need to persuade Hillerich & Bradsby to put a Slugger into space, and get a US astronaut to set a record for a fly ball!

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