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Saturday, July 13, 2019

Space Odyssey for the final coins of Wimbledon

Space Odyssey for the final coins of Wimbledon

Teenager Marni Johnson will throw the coin to the women's final of Wimbledon on Saturday, as high as she can, but not as much as she has already done, to space and back.

Both the coins for the women's final and the men's final - gold with tennis rackets on one side and '56' on the other to indicate the number of the expedition that went to the International Space Station (ISS) - spent 197 days in 2018 in space, giving Wimbledon another piece of sports history.

Commander Drew Feustel, who has been on three missions, said the idea came from a conversation he and his wife Indira had with Philip Brook, president of the All England Club, a few years ago.

His father-in-law had suggested in 2009 that he take tennis racquets "after all, we are a family of tennis players", but having to be light, the idea was abandoned.

"What could we take to the space that could unite space and science and the excitement of tennis and the summit of sport?" said the American astronaut on Saturday.

"'Indi' thought about the coins because they are low mass, low volume and the team here (Wimbledon) created this design, size, and dimension.

"Eventually they came to Houston, then to Russia and Kazakhstan, to the Soyuz spacecraft and then to space where they stayed for 197 days."

Feustel, who placed them in two plastic bags when the boxes were too large, occasionally took them out to photograph with the Earth as a background.

"I have not delivered them yet," he said, looking at Wimbledon fondly on Saturday.

"I literally had them in my pocket at the launch and going back to earth."

"I did not want to risk losing them, this is the first time they're here (Wimbledon)."

- 'A bit hypnotic'

It is not the only first for tennis in space for Feustel, 53 years old.

Feustel, who was a friend of the first man who walked on the moon in 1969, Neil Armstrong, came up with the idea of ​​playing tennis on the ISS with the United States Tennis Association.

"It was a challenge," he admitted.

"I'm not the best tennis player in the first place, so it was complicated in itself.

"Tennis in space is very different from Earth, the ball does not bounce on the ground, it bounces on all surfaces.

"We had to modify some of the rules, we can not hit it very hard, because it just bounces, nobody can do it.

"In space, it's a game of slow-motion tennis."

Some members of the crew did not like the idea.

"There were two tennis weekends," he said. "It was quite an effort, we had to clean the kitchen and get our table.

"The crew members were not completely crazy about that."

Feustel was not limited only to tennis.

"There are very few activities you can do in space, other than playing cards, looking out the window or watching movies," he said.

"However, I listened to and recorded in the space a song 'All Around the World' written by the Canadian band Tragically Hip.

"It's a kind of lullaby, the reason I like the song is that it has the rhythm when the Earth passes, slow, melodic and a little hypnotic."

Music is part of Feustel's life on Earth with a band of all astronauts called 'Max Q', which was formed by his predecessors in 1986.

"Most bands strive for greatness: Max Q strives for mediocrity," he joked.

Space Odyssey: the coin that will be launched for the Wimbledon women's final has been for space and back

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