77 Facts About Al Worden


Al Worden was born in Michigan in 1932; he spent his early years living on farms and attended the University of Michigan for one year, before securing an appointment to the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York.

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Al Worden proved adept at flying fighter planes, and honed his skills, becoming a test pilot before his selection as a Group 5 astronaut in 1966.

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Al Worden served on the support crew for Apollo 9 and the backup crew for Apollo 12 before his selection for the Apollo15 crew in 1970, with David Scott as commander and James Irwin as lunar module pilot.

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Al Worden took many photographs of the Moon and operated a suite of scientific instruments that probed the Moon.

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Al Worden remained at NASA until 1975 at the Ames Research Center, then entered the private sector.

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Al Worden engaged in a variety of business activities, and had a longtime involvement with the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation, serving as chair of its board of directors from 2005 until 2011.

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Al Worden made many public appearances, promoting a renewed space program and education in the sciences, before his death in 2020.

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The second of six children, and the oldest of the four boys, Alfred Merrill Al Worden lived on his family's farm outside the city of Jackson, though the family stayed part of the time at his maternal grandparents' farm near East Jordan.

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Al Worden attended Dibble, Griswold, Bloomfield and East Jackson grade schools and graduated from Jackson High School, where he became the student council president.

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Al Worden was a Boy Scout and earned the rank of First Class Scout.

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Al Worden's family was not wealthy, so Worden sought a scholarship to enable his studies.

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Al Worden was able to secure one to the University of Michigan, but it was good for only one year.

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Al Worden selected West Point and began his studies there in July 1951.

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Al Worden came to like the demanding life at West Point, especially once he passed the initial stages of his military education and was given greater responsibility within the Corps of Cadets.

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Al Worden received a Bachelor of Science degree in military science from West Point in 1955, finishing 47th out of 470 in his class.

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At the time Al Worden graduated from West Point, he had no piloting experience.

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Al Worden chose the Air Force, thinking promotion would be faster, something he subsequently learned was not the case.

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Al Worden received primary flight training at Moore Air Force Base, Texas, where he learned to fly on Beechcraft T-34 trainer aircraft, coming to love piloting.

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Al Worden earned Master of Science degrees in aerospace engineering and instrumentation engineering from the University of Michigan in 1963.

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Al Worden learned that his superiors wanted him to be part of an exchange program with Britain's Royal Air Force and be trained at the Empire Test Pilots' School in Farnborough, England.

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Since that course would not begin for six months, Al Worden spent the time at the Randolph Air Force Base Instrument Pilots Instructor School.

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In 1963, Al Worden put his name in for selection to NASA's third group of astronauts but was told that though NASA was interested in him even without test pilot experience, he was ruled out by his pending orders to Farnborough, with which the agency could not interfere.

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Al Worden thought he would be beyond NASA's age limit for new astronauts when next free to consider such a career option, and so believed he would never be an astronaut.

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Believing, as proved correct, that the Air Force program would never get off the ground, Al Worden chose to apply only to NASA, which he did in September 1965.

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Budget cuts and the diversion of funds to other programs meant there would be relatively few flights, and Al Worden perceived some resentment at the new intake from more senior astronauts as the competition for spots on Apollo missions intensified.

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The following month, Al Worden was assigned as part of the support crew for the second crewed Apollo mission, along with Fred Haise and Edgar Mitchell.

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Al Worden took the assignment as an indication that NASA management, including Slayton, was pleased with him.

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Al Worden informed the other astronauts on-site and they flew back to Houston.

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Al Worden was especially saddened by the fact that the three accomplished pilots who were to make up the first Apollo space crew died on the ground, rather than flying.

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The crew who had been scheduled for Apollo8, led by Jim McDivitt, became the Apollo9 crew, and Al Worden became part of that mission's support crew along with Mitchell and Jack Lousma.

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Slayton, in his memoirs, mentioned that Al Worden had been on the support crew for Apollo9, and deemed him a "logical choice".

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Al Worden wrote in his own autobiography that he and Irwin had learned of their selection for Apollo12 at a meeting in Scott's office.

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Al Worden remembered that the Apollo12 prime crew, led by Pete Conrad, had a close bond and drove matching black and gold Chevrolet Corvettes at Kennedy Space Center .

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Al Worden found El-Baz to be an enjoyable and inspiring teacher.

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Al Worden accompanied his crewmates on geology training which took them to places where they walked over terrain resembling the Moon's, including sites in Hawaii, Mexico, and Iceland.

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Al Worden trained for the possibility he might have to return without Scott and Irwin or rescue them if the LM launched into the wrong orbit.

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When he was not busy with that or other training, Al Worden spent much of his time at North American Rockwell's facilities at Downey, supervising the construction and testing of Apollo15's command and service module .

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Al Worden felt NASA needed to do more to engage children, members of a generation whose support would one day be necessary for the space program.

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Al Worden appeared on the show before going to the Moon and answered several children's questions: he wrote down some others and took them with him on the spacecraft, promising to think about them on the trip, and after the mission, appeared again on the program to answer them.

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Al Worden then maneuvered the CSM to dock with the LM, Falcon, which was mounted on the end of the S-IVB, and the combined craft was then separated from the S-IVB by explosives.

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Al Worden had executed a burn of the CSM's main engine, the Service Propulsion System, to send Endeavour from the lower orbit in which the two craft separated, to an orbit of 65.

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Al Worden began what amounted to a separate mission from his crewmates, with a separate CAPCOM and mission controllers.

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Al Worden supplemented the photographs with verbal descriptions; Endeavour's inclined orbit caused it to pass over features never seen before in detail as Worden watched.

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Al Worden did not need all the rest periods for sleep, and spent part of that time in contemplation of what was outside his craft, and what it all meant.

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Al Worden concluded it was naive to believe Earth had the only life in the universe, and he wondered if space exploration was part of humanity's survival instinct to avoid being trapped in a single solar system.

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Al Worden has been listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the "most isolated human being" during his time alone in Endeavour.

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Al Worden later stated he enjoyed his "three wonderful days in a spacecraft all by myself", and that he was used to being alone as a fighter pilot.

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Al Worden piloted the CSM as Scott maneuvered the LM, bringing them together in a direct rendezvous, on the first lunar orbit, the second time a first-orbit rendezvous had been accomplished .

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Al Worden took 38 minutes in extravehicular activity outside Endeavour to accomplish this, three times venturing from outside the hatch to the exterior of the SIM bay of the SM.

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In retrieving the film cassettes from the panoramic and mapping cameras, Al Worden performed the first deep-space EVA, and reported his personal observations of the general condition of equipment housed there.

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Al Worden remains, as of 2020, the record-holder for the EVA performed furthest from Earth.

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Al Worden wrote an angry letter to Herrick, stating that the sales were putting his career at risk.

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Slayton, knowing Al Worden was a stamp collector, became suspicious that he had arranged both deals, and this led to repeated phone calls asking for details.

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Al Worden remembered what hurt the most about that meeting was having disappointed Slayton, a man he greatly admired.

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Al Worden did not clear out his office but began looking into ways of staying at NASA, even if outside the Astronaut Corps.

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Al Worden found an ally in Associate Administrator for Manned Space Flight Dale D Myers, who helped Worden get a position at the Ames Research Center in California.

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At Ames, Al Worden served as a Senior Aerospace Scientist, and from 1973 to 1975, chief of the Systems Study Division.

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Al Worden retired from NASA and the Air Force, with the rank of colonel, in 1975.

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In 1982, Al Worden ran for the United States House of Representatives in Florida's 12th congressional district but lost the Republican primary to state senator Tom Lewis.

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Al Worden sold some of them to pay debts from his unsuccessful run for Congress.

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Al Worden still believed other former astronauts looked at him askance because of the postal covers incident.

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Al Worden was at the time living near KSC and as the Mercury Seven aged, he and other later astronauts took on greater responsibilities.

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In 2011, Al Worden's autobiography, Falling to Earth: An Apollo15 Astronaut's Journey to the Moon made the top 12 of the Los Angeles Times Bestseller list.

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Widely known as "Al", Al Worden made many public appearances, and was one of the most approachable of the former astronauts, ready to chat over a vodka on the rocks.

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In 2018, Al Worden joined the Back to Space organization as an Astronaut Consultant with the goal of using film to inspire the next generation to go to Mars.

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Al Worden entered the International Space Hall of Fame in 1983.

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Al Worden was inducted into the United States Astronaut Hall of Fame in 1997.

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In 2009, Al Worden was honored with the NASA Ambassador of Exploration Award.

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Al Worden received an Honorary Doctor of Science degree in Astronautical Engineering from the University of Michigan in 1971.

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Al Worden married Pamela Vander Beek, whom he met on a blind date while a cadet, in June 1955.

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Al Worden became the first astronaut to divorce during the program and thereafter fly in space.

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Al and Pamela Al Worden lived across the street from each other following the separation, and he remained involved in their daughters' lives.

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Al Worden was initially shunned by the Astronaut Wives Club but in time this ended.

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Al Worden had two daughters with Pamela Worden, Merrill and Alison, and one stepdaughter, Tamara, from his third marriage.

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Al Worden had been suffering from an infection at home in League City, Texas for which he was hospitalized at Texas Medical Center in Houston.

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Al Worden was convalescing at the Sugar Land facility at the time of his death.

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Those paying tribute to Al Worden included fellow Group 5 astronauts Duke, Haise and Jack Lousma.

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