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Play golf on Saturn's moons

NASA

Images of Saturn's moons made with the Cassini orbiter, shown here in an artist's conception, have been used to make a Flash-based golf game.

Now that the space shuttle has safely launched for its last time, it's time for space enthusiasts to have a little geeky fun: A virtual round of golf on Saturn's moons.

The Flash game, Golf Sector 6, was developed by Diamond Sky Productions, which is headed up by Carolyn Porco, the imaging science team lead for the Cassini spacecraft in orbit around Saturn.


The game is based on the images captured by the spacecraft and allows players to get a feel for what it would be like to tee it up on a truly out-of-this world course.

To play, hold down the clicker on your mouse and point the green arrow in the trajectory you want your tiny human golfer to hit the ball. The longer the arrow, the harder the swing.

"Each of Saturn's moons has its own weak gravity, which should keep things interesting, so be sure to take that into account when you make your swing!" the team explains on the Ciclops website, where the game is housed.

"Just like golfing on Earth, the goal is to hit the ball into the hole — or in this case, the crater! — using the smallest number of swings."

Playing a round on the Saturn's moons also presents a simple lesson in physics: Each moon has a different gravity because they are different masses and sizes. The ball's trajectory follows Newton's gravity formula.

Playing golf in outer space is nothing new. Apollo 14 astronaut Alan Shepard famously hit a few golf balls on the moon in 1971.

Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Tyurin hit a foam ball with a six iron during spacewalk at the International Space Station in 2006.

Maybe now that NASA is putting its focus on human spaceflight beyond low-Earth orbit, an astronaut may someday get to hit a few balls on Saturn. For now, a virtual fore! will have to do.

 


Tip o' the Log to Lisa Grossman at Wired.

John Roach is a contributing writer for msnbc.com. Connect with the Cosmic Log community by hitting the "like" button on the Cosmic Log Facebook page or following msnbc.com's science editor, Alan Boyle, on Twitter (@b0yle).