One would think that for a tennis match to make history in 2018, it would have to involve the likes of Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer. But that’s if the match were played on earth. Astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS) have created a different sort of history by playing the first ever game of tennis in space.
NASA and the US Tennis Association organised the event together to mark the start of the US Open Championship. Commander Andrew Feustel and three flight engineers – Serena Aunon-Chancellor from the European Space Agency, along with NASA’s Ricky Arnold and Alexander Gerst – played the gravity-defying doubles match.
Before the game began, Feustel explained how it was different from a regular tennis match. For example, they used a soft tennis ball so it wouldn’t damage any machinery. And, of course, something crucial was missing.
“The fact that we don’t have gravity is hard,” Fe said in a statement before the match. 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.”
The match was broadcast on the Unisphere, a globe-like sculpture that sat outside the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York City and was shown live by US Open’s YouTube and social media pages. You can watch the full broadcast below.