The Longest Drive

The New Scientist is reporting that Russian cosmonauts, in conjunction with Element 21 Golf are planning to hit a golf ball off the space station. The ball will remain in orbit for four years, beaming its location back to Earth via a transmitter.

But NASA is worried, because a mishit could end up with the ball remaining on the same plane as the station:

In a worst-case scenario, the ball would remain at the same altitude long enough that its orbital plane shifted until it could hit the station side-on, says J C Liou, an orbital debris expert at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, US. “Then you could potentially have something similar to a head-on collision with an impact speed of about 9.4 kilometres per second,” Liou told New Scientist.

The force of such a collision would be equivalent to that of a 6.5-tonne truck moving at nearly 100 kilometres per hour. “So the outcome of the worst-case scenario could be quite catastrophic,” he says.

If so, it would be the most expensive missed shot in history.

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