On This Day in 1971, Apollo 14 Golfers Arrived on the Moon

NASA (Public Domain)
NASA (Public Domain) / NASA (Public Domain)

The fourth moonwalk in human history occurred on February 5, 1971. The Apollo 14 mission was a big one, in part because the disasters suffered by Apollo 13's crew had shaken (and then reaffirmed) public confidence in the space program. Apollo 14 was a do-over of Apollo 13, but with a different crew. Commander Alan Shepard—who had been the first American in space—was on the crew. By 1971, he was the oldest US astronaut to visit space, aged 47.

When Apollo 14 reached the moon, it had trouble landing at the Fra Mauro highlands. The astronauts ran into trouble docking the Kitty Hawk command module with the Antares lunar lander. When that finally worked (after firing the thrusters from each craft to force them together), the Antares lander's radar had trouble calculating distance to the moon upon descent. The glitches were solved just in time to make a landing. When he arrived on the lunar surface, Shepard said, "It's been a long way, but we're here."

The next day, toward the end of the second EVA (extravehicular activity) and history's fifth-ever moonwalk, Shepard proceeded to try something unprecedented: lunar golf. Shepard had smuggled a makeshift six-iron in a sock, along with two golf balls. The club was a little odd, as it was a six-iron head modified by a Houston golf pro to screw onto a rock collecting implement provided by NASA. Shepard was forced to golf one-handed due to his bulky EVA suit. His first shot was awful ("I'm gonna try a little sand-trap shot here...Got more dirt than ball!"), but the second traveled an estimated 200 yards (despite Shepard's excited statement "miles and miles and miles!"). The whole thing happened on live TV, complete with banter from Houston on his first "slice"—here's a clip:

For more on what Apollo 14 achieved, check out the NASA documentary Apollo 14: Mission to Fra Mauro here:

For more on the golf club (and the smuggling sock), let this Atlas Obscura article be your guide.