NASA astronaut Drew Feustel is ready for his next great space challenge. He's been playing tennis since he was 10, but all the regular rules are off as he takes on his fellow astronauts for a match on the International Space Station today.
Feustel will team up with NASA's Ricky Arnold and Serena Auñón-Chancellor and ESA's Alexander Gerst for a doubles match in microgravity. Feustel and the United States Tennis Association have timed the event for the start of the US Open tournament qualifying rounds on Tuesday.
The USTA sent racquets and balls to the ISS so the astronauts would be equipped for the match. The right gear is only part of the battle. Tennis balls don't behave in space the same way they do on Earth.
"The fact that we don't have gravity is hard. Balls won't bounce, and gravity has no effect," said Feustel. "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." He says the crew might have to invent some new rules.
The space tennis match is part of the USTA's Net Generation program that promotes tennis for kids.
The match will broadcast live at 5:30 p.m. PT on the US Open's Facebook page, YouTube and Periscope. Juan Martin del Potro, the 2009 US Open men's singles champion, will chat with Feustel ahead of the game.
As Feustel told the USTA before launching to the ISS in March, the astronauts are going to "give it our best shot."