Cosmonaut to Hit Golf Ball Into Orbit

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A Russian cosmonaut will whack a golf ball from the international space station in a publicity stunt on Thanksgiving Day, NASA officials said Tuesday.

Russian flight engineer Mikhail Tyurin will show off his swing to promote a Canadian golf club manufacturer during a spacewalk on Nov. 23.

NASA safety officers have cleared the stunt, saying it poses no threat to the space station or the crew since the golf ball weighs only 3 grams and will return to Earth's atmosphere in three days.

"It's not like Tiger Woods taking a drive," said Kirk Shireman, deputy program manager of the international space station.

Element 21 Golf Co. said it wants to publicize its new line of clubs and commemorate the 35th anniversary of the time astronaut Alan Shepard hit golf balls on the moon during the Apollo 14 mission.

The stunt, arranged for an undisclosed sum, had originally been scheduled for a June spacewalk but was pushed back so other work could be done.

Tyurin and U.S. commander Miguel Lopez-Alegria will be launched to the space station in a Russian Soyuz vehicle in mid-September for a six-month stay.

That trip will follow a few days after Atlantis departs the space station if the space shuttle is launched before Sept. 7. Atlantis' launch window opens Sunday.

Japanese space tourist Daisuke "Dice-K" Enomoto was supposed to join Tyurin and Lopez-Alegria on the trip for about a week in space, but the Russian space agency announced Monday that the businessman had failed a medical test and wouldn't go.

Shireman said no decision had been made on a replacement for Enomoto, who would have been the fourth tourist in space.