Apollo 15 astronaut Al Worden dies age 88
Apollo astronaut Colonel Alfred Merrill "Al" Worden has died at the age of 88. In a Twitter post, his family revealed that the former Command Module Pilot for the 1971 Apollo 15 lunar landing mission passed away in his sleep on March 18, 2020, at his home in Houston, Texas.
Born on February 7, 1932, Worden joined NASA, where he served as a member of the support crew for Apollo 9 and was the backup Command Module Pilot for Apollo 12. During the Apollo 15 mission, which launched on July 26, 1971, he remained aboard the Command Module Endeavour while his crewmates David R Scott and James B Irwin descended to the lunar surface.
Aside from tending the mothership during the moonwalks, Worden also made three spacewalks to retrieve film canisters from an instrument bay that had been installed in the Service Module – the first spacewalk in history to be conducted in deep space. While in lunar orbit, he operated a series of scientific instruments to study the Moon and took photos using a panoramic camera based on spy satellite technology.
Apollo 15 was Worden's only space mission. After returning to Earth, it was discovered that the crew had carried 398 commemorative postal covers to the Moon for profit without permission. Though this was not illegal, NASA disapproved of such activities and made an example of the astronauts, grounding them from further spaceflights.
Worden moved from the astronaut corps to NASA’s Ames Research Center in 1972 before retiring from the space agency in 1975. He then held a position as President of Maris Worden Aerospace and was Vice-President of BF Goodrich Aerospace Brecksville, Ohio. He also wrote several books, including a collection of poetry.
"NASA sends its condolences to the family and loved ones of Apollo astronaut Al Worden, an astronaut whose achievements in space and on Earth will not be forgotten," says NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “A Colonel in the US Air Force, Worden was a test pilot and instructor before joining NASA as an astronaut in 1966. He flew to the Moon as command module pilot aboard Apollo 15. During this time he earned a world record as 'most isolated human being' while his crewmates roamed the lunar surface, and he was 2,235 miles away from anyone else.
"Later in his career, Worden became Senior Aerospace Scientist at NASA’s Ames Research Center in California. His multiple appearances on the children’s show Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood surely fueled the desire of many children to pursue careers along the lines of his and become future exploration leaders.
“Of his mission, Worden said, ‘Now I know why I'm here. Not for a closer look at the Moon, but to look back at our home, the Earth.’
"We remember this pioneer whose work expanded our horizons."
The video below commemorates Colonel Worden.