While space travel and tennis aren’t the most obvious pairing what with the lack of gravity and all, the astronauts on the International Space Station (ISS) just proved that you don’t need it when you have a killer serve. The space travelers just played the first-ever tennis match in the stars, battling it out in the ISS, broadcasting the match to Earth via Periscope and NASA Live.
Commander Andrew “Drew” Feustel and three flight engineers—Serena Aunon-Chancellor from the European Space Agency along with NASA’s Ricky Arnold and Alexander Gerst—played the interstellar doubles match.
Prior to the match, Feustel, a geophysicist-turned-space tennis pro picked up a few tips from tennis champion Juan Martín del Potro, who tweeted that he “never thought [he] would get to coach someone to play a tennis match in Space.”
Due to the confines of the space station, and the lack of gravity to direct the balls, the astronauts played on tiny tennis rackets hitting the floating ball slowly over a make-shift net. Feustel predicted that the space match would play out like a giant game of Pong, the old video game, and he was not wrong with the astronauts volleying more than scoring.
The space match was organized by the U.S. Open tennis organization whose own tournament kicks off this week in New York. To celebrate the historic event, the match was broadcast on the Unisphere, the globe-like sculpture that sits outside the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York. It was an appropriate tribute as, per the tennis organization, the steel globe was “commissioned to celebrate the dawn of the space age” and therefore was the perfect 3D canvas to display the first tennis match in space.
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