Man Who Circled the Moon Alone in 1971 Has Died

Al Worden was on Apollo 15
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Mar 19, 2020 3:40 AM CDT
Apollo 15 Astronaut Al Worden Dies
This March 26, 1971 photo made available by NASA shows astronauts Al Worden, center, Dave Scott, left, and Jim Irwin in the Command Module for an altitude chamber test at Cape Canaveral, Fla.   (NASA via AP)

Apollo 15 astronaut Al Worden, who circled the moon alone in 1971 while his two crewmates test-drove the first lunar rover, died Wednesday at age 88. Worden died in his sleep at a rehab center in Houston following treatment for an infection, says friend and colleague Tom Kallman. "Al was an American hero whose achievements in space and on Earth will never be forgotten," said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine in a statement. He also praised Worden for his appearances on Mister Rogers' Neighborhood to explain his moon mission to children. Worden flew to the moon in 1971 along with David Scott and Jim Irwin. As command module pilot, Worden remained in lunar orbit aboard the Endeavour while Scott and Irwin descended to the surface and tried out NASA's first moon buggy. Scott is one of four moonwalkers still alive. Irwin died in 1991.

Once his moonwalking crewmates were back on board and headed home, Worden performed the first deep-space spacewalk—nearly 200,000 miles from Earth. Worden said of the mission: "Now I know why I'm here. Not for a closer look at the Moon, but to look back at our home, the Earth." Born and raised on a farm in Michigan, Worden graduated from the US Military Academy at West Point in 1955 and was commissioned in the Air Force. He attended test pilot school. "As I was growing up, aviation was not really something that was foremost in my mind," Worden said in 2000. "From the age of 12 on, I basically ran the farm, did all the field work, milked the cows, did all that until I left for college." "'Line of Grey, Be Thou at Peace!' Godspeed Al," tweeted Apollo 11 moonwalker Buzz Aldrin, borrowing from their West Point alma mater.

(More astronaut stories.)

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