Space Station Astronauts Prepare for Golf-Shot Spacewalk

Going long will take on new meaning next week when an astronaut tees up and sends a golf ball flying from the International Space Station (ISS).

ISS Expedition 14 flight commander Mikhail Tyurin will whack the golf ball as part of a six-hour spacewalk planned for Nov. 22, the night before Thanksgiving.

Joining him will be commander Michael Lopez-Alegria. Flight engineer Thomas Reiter will remain inside the station tending to systems during the spacewalk.

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"The ISS is in great shape," said Kirk Shireman, the deputy ISS Program Manager, at a NASA press conference Thursday. "It's ready to support the assembly flight, it's certainly ready to support the EVA that we have coming up a week from now."

Up first on the spacewalk schedule is a one-handed golf-shot by Tyurin. The Russian cosmonaut will hit between one to three golf balls away from the space station.

The shots are part of a publicity stunt to promote a new line of golf clubs by Element 21, a Canadian manufacturer. The balls are extremely lightweight, weighing only 1 gram each.

"To put this in perspective, if you took a one-dollar bill out of your pocket, it weighs one gram," said leading spacewalk flight director Holly Ridings.

A standard-issue golf ball weighs about 45 grams.

NASA officials said they estimate the golf balls will de-orbit safely in two to three days, depending on atmospheric conditions.

"It poses absolutely no concern for the upcoming shuttle launch," Riding said.

Another major task scheduled for the spacewalk is the installation of hardware designed to measure charged and neutral particles in low-Earth orbit.

The spacewalkers will also reposition a navigation antenna that will aid the automated docking of a future European cargo ship, and assess whether an antenna used to help dock Progress 23 last month is fully retracted.

"Our colleagues in Moscow are not exactly sure of the configuration of this antenna, and conveniently enough we had this EVA planned," Riding said. "So the crew is going to go back and take a look at the antenna and determine what we need to do about it, if it poses any issues to undocking the progress, which we'll do sometime in January."

Next week's spacewalk will be the fourth for Tyurin and the sixth for Lopez-Alegria.

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