Alfred Merrill Worden was an American test pilot, engineer, and NASA astronaut who piloted the Apollo 15 lunar mission in 1971. He was one of only 24 people to visit the Moon, orbiting it 74 times in the Command Module Endeavour. But did you know what happened to Worden after he decided to leave NASA?
After leaving NASA, Apollo astronaut Al Worden relocated to San Francisco, grew his hair, and became a quasi-hippie. Worden was guested on Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood, where he explained what it was like to be an astronaut.
The First Spacewalker
Al Worden was a NASA astronaut who flew above the moon with Apollo 15, then performed the first-ever deep space spacewalk on his way back from the moon in 1971.
Worden was also a member of NASA’s fifth astronaut class, which was chosen in 1966. His first and only space flight was as the command module pilot for Apollo 15, the fourth mission to land humans on the moon.
The Early Life of Al Worden
Alfred Merrill Worden was born in Jackson, Michigan, on February 7, 1932. He didn’t grow up wanting to fly, but he knew from a young age that staying on his family farm wasn’t in his plans.
From the age of 12 on, I basically ran the farm, did all the field work, milked the cows, did all that well. In that period from the time I was 12 until I was 18 and going to college, I made up my mind that this is not what I wanted to do the rest of my life.Al Worden, former NASA Astronaut
Worden graduated from the United States Military Academy and joined the Air Force. He then taught at the Aerospace Research Pilots School before being chosen to be an astronaut by NASA in 1965.
I began to realize that flying was kind of my game. It was a thing that I was very attuned to. I got involved in all of the systems on an airplane. I really got wrapped up in how you fly an airplane and what you do.Al Worden, former NASA Astronaut
How Did They Prepare for Apollo 15?
In 1966, Worden joined NASA as a member of the agency’s fifth group of astronauts. The new astronauts jokingly dubbed themselves the Original 19, a reference to the group of astronauts known as the Original Seven who flew the first Mercury missions into space.
Worden was part of the astronaut support crew for Apollo 9, the first Apollo program docking three years after his appointment. He was then assigned as a backup command pilot for Apollo 12.
Astronauts placed in backup positions at the time could typically expect a flight three missions later. Worden was assigned to Apollo 15 as a command module pilot.
Initially, the Apollo 15 crew was supposed to be part of a group of missions that would conduct preliminary explorations. Still, the task was eventually renamed one that would give the crew more scientific responsibilities.
In addition to spacecraft training, the crew studied geology and learned how to operate the mission’s brand-new lunar rover. Worden, who would remain in orbit, would need to become an expert in mapping cameras and other scientific instruments to examine the lunar surface.
That added an extra burden, but it also added a lot of excitement because we kind of felt like the program was getting mature. We’re doing the all-up program now. We’re not just getting out on the moon and walking around for six hours and getting back in and saying, ‘Hey, I’ve been there,’ and collect a few rocks. Now we had to do some things.Al Worden, former NASA Astronaut