Swing Away Spaceman!

The Russians are going to tee off in space outside the ISS. No I'm not joking. It's a scheme by a golf ball company for publicity.

The safety issues surrounding this don't really seem to be that high. So I'm at a loss to understand comments like these:"Is this the right message to be sending to taxpayers in America, Russia, Europe and Japan — that it's OK to do a stunt like this?"

Yes. It is.

It sends the message that space is open to commercialization and the private sector. Going down that course means regular people are getting involved with space. That's never a bad thing.


  1. The safety issues surrounding this don't really seem to be that high.

    Well the safety risks aren't that high unless you consider the destruction of a $100 billion space station to be a safety problem. This cosmonaut is going to be golfing in a spacesuit, which means that he might be able to impart a 10 m/s change in velocity to the ball. It will cross the ISS orbit twice with every orbit, once as it drops below the ISS orbit and again when it goes above the ISS.

    If the orbital period of the golf ball is resonant with the period of the ISS then the golf ball will eventually strike the station - the worst case scenario is that it will hit the station at 11 km/s.

    The ball is expected to orbit the earth for four years plus or minus a few months. It will endanger not only the ISS but everything else in the 53 degree inclination orbit - such as any shuttle or Soyuz or Progress missions to the ISS over the next four years.

    This stunt is so dangerous it is a wonder that anyone thought it would be a good idea.

  2. "This stunt is so dangerous it is a wonder that anyone thought it would be a good idea."

    Ed I know well enough that NASA sometimes makes stupid unsafe decisions... The Shuttle's a case in point.

    Though I find it hard to believe that a few centimeter diameter golf ball will drastically increase the risk of debris damage than already exists:

    "The shielding is designed to absorb impacts of objects up to 1 cm in diameter. Beyond that, it can only minimize the amount of penetration the debris creates in the station module. Unfortunately, objects larger than 1 cm up to 10-20 cm cannot be tracked and avoided reliably, leaving a window of vulnerability to the station from medium-sized debris. Until shielding or tracking can be improved, there is little to do but hope that the station is lucky."

    Luck. That's what the station is depending on. And you're telling me that golf ball is going to increase the risk that much more than what is already there?

    Maybe they could hit a restricted "symbolic" golf ball that is only centimeter in diameter to mitigate that risk. Though I find it really hard to believe that few centimeter debris isn't already floating around up there that's just as much of a risk.

    According to NASA there is approximately 100,000 pieces of orbital debris in orbit right now that are in the size range of our golf ball. Again, another one is going to make that much of a difference?

    Also your analysis doesn't take into account orbital decay. The golf ball won't perpetually cross the ISS's orbit. Eventually it will re-enter the earth's atmosphere.

    I'm assuming that NASA wouldn't do something THIS stupid as allowing a potential impact threat from occuring.

    Maybe they have, and I'm fooling myself... Time will tell. Or maybe they will just continue being "lucky."

  3. "I'm assuming that NASA wouldn't do something THIS stupid..."

    See your earlier post about the shuttle engine cut-off sensors.