Aug. 21 (UPI) — On Tuesday evening, four astronauts aboard the International Space Station will make history. They will attempt to play the first-ever tennis match in space.
NASA astronaut Drew Feustel, commander of Expedition 56, has previously professed his love of tennis and was instrumental in arranging the historic match. He will be joined by fellow NASA astronauts Ricky Arnold and Serena Auñón-Chancellor, as well as Alexander Gerst, of the European Space Agency.
“We rocketed two mini Net Generation racquets and balls to Feustel on the ISS,” Amy Choyne, chief marketing officer with the USTA, said in a news release. “Drew’s passion for tennis and space travel is inspiring our youth to serve to the moon and seek the unknown while also demonstrating the benefits of a fit and athletic lifestyle.”
Without gravity, the muscles of astronauts get weak and atrophy. To prevent muscle decay, astronauts must regularly exercise. The tennis match will help the four astronauts stay fit — but it won’t be easy.
“The fact that we don’t have gravity is hard,” said Feustel. “Balls won’t bounce, and gravity has no effect. To me, it’s going to seem like that old game Pong, where you hit the ball and the ball just goes straight; it doesn’t bounce on anything. So it’s going to be challenging. We might have to invent some new rules.”
Feustel has been spending most of his time aboard the space station managing experiments. The commander is preparing to install spectrometer outside the Japanese module. The instrument will provide hyperspectral imagery of the Earth, helping scientists track water cycles, changes in vegetation and other environmental shifts happening on Earth’s surface.