Russian cosmonauts are set to take the longest golf shot ever on a space walk from the International Space Station. Experts are wondering whether to label the station as a natural obstacle.
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. But he adds that such a dire scenario is “highly unlikely” to occur.