Golfing In Space, Astronaut Included

Cosmic Putt Putt

The New York Hall of Science in Queens opened an unusual mini golf park this summer. Every hole illustrates a different scientific principle. Charles Camarda, a NASA engineer and former astronaut, agreed to play a round and explain some basic space science as he putted.

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IRA FLATOW, host:

And now, Flora is here.

Hi, Flora. Flora Lichtman with our Video Pick of the Week.

LICHTMAN: Hi, Ira.

FLATOW: Hi there. Got a good one, I'm sure.

LICHTMAN: Yes, it's the highly anticipated golfing with an astronaut video.

(Soundbite of laughter)

FLATOW: Oh, as I'm waiting for that. We promo that last time.

LICHTMAN: Yes, we did. And here it is. We've delivered.

FLATOW: The golf-playing golf with an as - but this is not on the big link some place?

LICHTMAN: No. It's actually an - it's even better. It's mini golf.

FLATOW: Wow. You played mini golf with an astronaut?

LICHTMAN: I mostly filmed. But…

(Soundbite of laughter)

LICHTMAN: …an astronaut did play mini golf with us, kind of. And it's not just any mini golf. The New York Hall of Science in Queens, on the seven train, has built and opened this summer a mini golf course that is space themed.

FLATOW: Wow.

LICHTMAN: So every hole has a scientific lesson associated with it.

FLATOW: Like gravity and rocketry and things like that?

LICHTMAN: Yeah, exactly. So what, you know, hole number three I think is the launch window, and so you can read a little bit about, you know, what the launch window is and then the hole itself represents that by having a medal grate that the kids we were playing with had very hard time…

(Soundbite of laughter)

LICHTMAN: …mastering, and I would have too, I mean.

FLATOW: Anyway, it's funny.

LICHTMAN: It's was a - it's a tough hole.

FLATOW: It's funny. It's our Video Pick of the Week on our Web site at sciencefriday.com.

And the astronaut walked you through the mini golf course…

LICHTMAN: Yes. So it's…

FLATOW: …explaining this to you?

LICHTMAN: Yeah. He was very generous.

FLATOW: Who was he?

LICHTMAN: It's Charles Camarda. And he flew on Discovery a couple of years ago on the Return to Flight mission which was…

FLATOW: Mm-hmm.

LICHTMAN: …after the Columbia disaster. So…

FLATOW: All right.

LICHTMAN: …you know, that's kind of a brave thing to do anyway.

FLATOW: Yeah. Yeah.

LICHTMAN: And he - yeah. He explained some of the science as we went along.

FLATOW: It's very funny to see - you know, it's cute, it's a theme park, it's at the New York Hall of Science in Queens and it teaches you about rocketry, the physics - well, while you're launching that golf ball…

(Soundbite of laughter)

FLATOW: …around loop-to-loops and then almost hitting certain people.

LICHTMAN: Yes. There are a few close calls on the video. Look out for a little montage where…

(Soundbite of laughter)

LICHTMAN: …a few people almost get smacked in the head. And you know the - our astronaut, Dr. Camarda was pretty good. I mean, he tied for first with one of the kids.

FLATOW: Is that (unintelligible) kind of kids.

(Soundbite of laughter)

FLATOW: So simple, even a kid can do it. But it's a lot of fun and thank you for putting your life in jeopardy…

(Soundbite of laughter)

FLATOW: …because I saw some of those angles that you got with the golf balls there.

LICHTMAN: Yeah. Some were close. And I'd be curious, if people have mini golf courses that are sort of sciencey(ph) in their neighborhoods, we'd love to hear about it.

FLATOW: Yeah. Maybe they can shoot their video, send it to us…

LICHTMAN: Yeah, that'd be great.

FLATOW: If you can do your own video of a sciencey theme at your own mini golf course…

LICHTMAN: And it doesn't have to be mini golf, I mean, you know…

FLATOW: Yeah.

LICHTMAN: …amusement park.

FLATOW: Yeah. Amusement park. Yeah, that - may be at mini golf - why that little windmill gets in a way just when you -

LICHTMAN: Yeah. The physics.

FLATOW: The physics of all that stuff, thank you.

LICHTMAN: Thanks.

FLATOW: Flora Lichtman. Our Video Pick of the Week at the - is the mini golf science video there on sciencefriday.com. It's a lot of fun. I'm sure you'll enjoy it.

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