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Golf on the Moon?


Efforts are underway by some private firms to develop the moon. Among the corporations that have launched studies are two large Japanese companies, Shimizu Construction and Nishimatsu Construction. Shimizu has been studying plans for lunar tennis courts and golf courses, while Nishimatsu has proposed building a 10-story-high resort.

Two other non-profit entities are also advocating lunar development. The Moon Society, an organization of astronomers, computer programmers and scientists, is pushing for “larger-scale industrialization and private enterprise” on the moon, according to the Wall Street Journal. The Universal Lunarian Society wants to build the city of Lunaria on the moon. The society has been recording claim deeds on the lunar surface since 1989. Five years ago, it began offering sites in the lunar crater of Copernicus for $50 an acre.

Among those opposing development on the moon is Rick Steiner, a fisheries professor at the University of Alaska. Steiner has proposed that the United Nations designate the moon as one of its World Heritage Sites, thus preserving Earth’s only satellite for peaceful and scientific purposes. Steiner presented his proposal at the International Space Development Conference, in Denver, in late-May 2002. Before the conference, Steiner told the Wall Street Journal, “The bottom line here is: Let’s go and explore our universe, but let’s not go as Genghis Khan. Let’s go as Mother Teresa.”

Not so surprisingly, given the diminishing land availability on Earth, many conference attendees favor developing the moon. The pro-development “moonies” also question how Steiner can invoke United Nations’ protection measures of the moon, when the 1973 World Heritage Convention signed by the U.S. and other countries specifically calls for protecting sites on Earth. Others are less disdainful of Steiner’s purist approach, saying that such worthy projects as a solar-power plant could help fuel earthly activities while helping the environment on the home planet.

Corporate takeover of the moon may be feasible, yet is still quite futuristic. But who knows? With the moon’s near-zero gravity, golfers would love to test their power against Tiger Woods’, whose drives would be paltry compared to shots hit on a lunar golf course.

Alan Shephard was the first to play golf on the moon. On February 6, 1971, Shepard, a crew member on Apollo 14, grabbed a custom-made 6-iron and launched one of the most famous shots in history. Actually it was two shots – Shepard’s first misfired and traveled only 100 feet. The second connected solidly and stayed up in the air for 30 seconds, traveling 200 yards – not bad for a 6-iron.

Of his famous shot, which proved that man could perform regular tasks in an otherworldly environment, Shepard said, “I was searching for a way to indicate to schoolchildren the reduced gravity field and the total lack of atmosphere," he told USA Today during a 1994 book tour. "The classic example of dropping a feather and a lead ball had already been done. Then I thought, with the same clubhead speed, the ball's going to go at least six times as far. There's absolutely no drag, so if you do happen to spin it, it won't slice or hook 'cause there's no atmosphere to make it turn."

Sounds like those lunar studies should continue.