|Birth Day:||February 7, 1932|
|Birth Place:||Jackson, United States|
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He earned his Bachelor's degree from West Point and two Master's degrees from the University of Michigan.
His family was not wealthy, so Worden sought a scholarship to enable his studies. He was able to secure one to the University of Michigan, but it was good for only one year. Seeing the U.S. service academies as his road to an education, Worden took an entrance examination and was offered appointments both to the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York, and to the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland. He selected West Point and began his studies there in July 1951. Worden later stated, "There was no way I was going to live the rest of my life on a farm. That kind of got me started down the path that led to NASA."
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. In addition to his studies, he participated in cross country running, gymnastics and cheerleading. He received a Bachelor of Science degree in military science from West Point in 1955, finishing 47th out of 470 in his class.
Worden married Pamela Vander Beek, whom he met on a blind date while a cadet, in June 1955. The couple divorced in December 1969, just before Worden was selected to fly on Apollo 15. Worden became the first astronaut to divorce during the program and thereafter fly in space. Al and Pamela Worden lived across the street from each other following the separation, and he remained involved in their daughters' lives. He was initially shunned by the Astronaut Wives Club but in time this ended.
Seeking both to advance his career and to benefit the Air Force, Worden in 1961 asked to be sent to study aerospace engineering at the University of Michigan. He earned Master of Science degrees in aerospace engineering and instrumentation engineering from the University of Michigan in 1963.
In 1963, 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. 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.
After graduation, Worden applied for U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School, but to his surprise, he was not selected. He 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. Since that course would not begin for six months, Worden spent the time at the Randolph Air Force Base Instrument Pilots Instructor School. After successfully completing the course at Farnborough, second in his class, Worden returned to the U.S. He then served as an instructor at the Aerospace Research Pilot School (ARPS), to which he was ordered at the specific request of its commandant, Colonel Chuck Yeager, and from which he graduated in September 1965.
NASA's recruitment for its fifth group of astronauts took place in 1965, at the same time the Air Force was seeking to recruit for its program, the Manned Orbiting Laboratory, with qualified pilots in the Air Force free to apply for either or both. Believing, as proved correct, that the Air Force program would never get off the ground, Worden chose to apply only to NASA, which he did in September 1965. He wrote in his memoir that "professionally, I figured it couldn't get any better than that. Even being a test pilot couldn't compare with being an astronaut and making a spaceflight." Under the selection criteria, candidates had to be born on or after December 1, 1929, raising the age limit from 34 to 36. Worden, aged 34 when selected, was one of the 19 candidates chosen by NASA in April 1966, together with his ARPS classmates Stuart Roosa and Charles Duke; four others were previous graduates.
Chief Astronaut Alan Shepard on October 3, 1966, assigned Worden and four other Group 5 selectees, Ken Mattingly, Jack Swigert, Ronald Evans and Vance Brand, to the astronaut team dealing with the Block II command module (CM), headed by Pete Conrad. The Block I command modules were intended only for Apollo's initial Earth-orbit flights, and in fact never flew in space; the Block II modules would go to lunar orbit. The following month, Worden was assigned as part of the support crew for the second crewed Apollo mission, along with Fred Haise and Edgar Mitchell. Apollo support crews were to do the things that the prime and backup crews did not have time for. Worden took the assignment as an indication that NASA management, including Slayton, was pleased with him.
Worden was at North American Aviation's plant in Downey, California, where the Block II command module was being built, on January 27, 1967, when he received an urgent phone call from Slayton, informing him that all three Apollo 1 astronauts had been killed in a fire at the launch pad, where a test was under way. Worden informed the other astronauts on-site and they flew back to Houston. He 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. During the complete safety review that followed, Worden spent much of his time in Downey working on the Block II CM, seeking (with other CM specialists such as Swigert) to remove potential combustibles and other hazards. After the pause, he remained on the support crew for the second Apollo mission, which was to include testing of the CM and Lunar Module (LM) in Earth orbit.
The crew had, before the mission, agreed with an acquaintance named Horst Eiermann, who was working on behalf of a West German stamp dealer, Hermann Sieger, to carry 100 postal covers to the Moon in exchange for approximately $7,000 for each of them. The astronauts added 100 more for each crew member, though two covers were unaccounted for, leading to a total of 398. These were carried aboard Endeavour prior to launch by Scott in his spacesuit's pocket, were transferred into Falcon and spent three days on the lunar surface inside the lander. After the return, 100 covers were sent to Eiermann in West Germany, and the astronauts received the agreed payments. NASA rules required that personal items carried aboard Apollo flights be manifested for weight and other reasons and approved by Slayton; this was not done. The astronauts stated their intent had been to set up trust funds for their children, and that they intended that the covers not be sold or otherwise publicized until the Apollo program was over and they had left NASA and the Air Force. Astronauts were forbidden by standards of conduct issued in 1967 from using their position for financial gain for themselves or other people.
This mission was initially designated Apollo 8. There were delays in the development of the LM and in August 1968, NASA official George Low proposed that if Apollo 7 in October went well, Apollo 8 should go to lunar orbit without a LM, so as not to hold up the program. The Earth-orbit test would become Apollo 9. The crew who had been scheduled for Apollo 8, led by Jim McDivitt, became the Apollo 9 crew, and Worden became part of that mission's support crew along with Mitchell and Jack Lousma.
Scott, Worden, and Irwin were publicly named as the crew of Apollo 15 on March 26, 1970. Apollo 15 was originally scheduled to be an H mission, with a limited stay of 33 hours on the Moon and two moonwalks, but the cancellation of two Apollo missions in mid-1970 meant the flight would be a J mission, with three moonwalks during its three-day stay, the first Lunar Roving Vehicle (LRV), and in the service module (SM) a suite of scientific instruments to probe the Moon. It was Worden's job, as his crewmates walked on the Moon, to operate these devices. For the first time, observations from lunar orbit were made a formal mission objective, and, like the CMPs of Apollo 13 and Apollo 14, Worden worked with geologist Farouk El-Baz during training, learning to interpret what he saw as he flew over the mountains and deserts of the western United States. Worden found El-Baz to be an enjoyable and inspiring teacher. He also 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. He trained for the possibility he might have to return without Scott and Irwin or rescue them if the LM launched into the wrong orbit. When he was not busy with that or other training, Worden spent much of his time at North American Rockwell's facilities at Downey, supervising the construction and testing of Apollo 15's command and service module (CSM).
Apollo 15 took off on its lunar journey from KSC on July 26, 1971. Once trans-lunar injection had been achieved, placing the spacecraft on a trajectory towards the Moon, explosive cords separated the CSM, Endeavour, from the booster as Worden operated the CSM's thrusters to push it away. Worden then maneuvered the CSM to dock with the LM, Falcon, which was mounted on the end of the S-IVB (the booster that had supplied the thrust for TLI), and the combined craft was then separated from the S-IVB by explosives.
The 100 covers Scott sent to West Germany were put on sale to Sieger's customers in late 1971 at a price of about $1,500 each. After receiving the agreed payments, the astronauts returned them, and in the end, took no compensation. Slayton heard about the Sieger covers, and he spoke with Worden and Irwin; both referred him to Scott. Slayton, knowing Worden was a stamp collector, became suspicious that he had arranged both deals, and this led to repeated phone calls asking for details. In April 1972, Slayton met with Scott and Worden and learned from them that unauthorized covers had been flown. Worden remembered what hurt the most about that meeting was having disappointed Slayton, a man he greatly admired.
Worden received the NASA Distinguished Service Medal in 1971. He entered the International Space Hall of Fame in 1983. He was inducted into the United States Astronaut Hall of Fame in 1997. In 2009, Worden was honored with the NASA Ambassador of Exploration Award. He was inducted in 2016 into the International Air & Space Hall of Fame at the San Diego Air & Space Museum.
Worden and the other Apollo 15 crew members received the first United Nations Peace Medal in 1971. They also received the Robert J. Collier Trophy (1971), the Kitty Hawk Memorial Award (1971) and the AIAA Haley Astronautics Award (1972). He received an Honorary Doctor of Science degree in Astronautical Engineering from the University of Michigan in 1971.
The Apollo 15 crew had been recycled as the backup crew for Apollo 17, the final Apollo mission, as using fully-trained astronauts was easier than training a fresh backup crew who would have no prospect of being the prime crew on a later lunar Apollo mission. But in May 1972, as Worden remembered, Slayton called him while Worden was preparing for geological training, instructing him to clear out his office and go back to the Air Force. Slayton had prevailed on Irwin to retire, letting NASA assign a new backup crew. Worden did not clear out his office but began looking into ways of staying at NASA, even if outside the Astronaut Corps. Slayton said at the time that he had to reduce the number of astronauts, that Irwin and Mitchell were eligible for retirement from the military, and the astronaut he could most easily do without after that was Worden; the postal covers incident had played a part in that determination.
The matter became public in June 1972 and the three astronauts were reprimanded for poor judgment on July 10. Concerned about commercialization of Apollo 15, the Senate Committee on Aeronautical and Space Sciences set a hearing for August 3, 1972; among those who testified were the astronauts, Slayton, NASA Administrator James C. Fletcher and Deputy Administrator George Low. Slayton wrote of the astronauts' testimony, "they came clean and took their lumps but I was still pretty pissed off about it."
The Apollo 15 astronauts had been required to turn in, and NASA had retained, 298 of the postal covers carried aboard by Scott, as well as 61 more envelopes from the deal with Herrick; they were transferred to the National Archives in August 1973. It had been Worden's understanding that the covers would be returned once NASA's investigation was over, and in 1983 he sued the government. Believing it could not win, the government returned the covers and the 298 were divided by the three astronauts. Worden sold some of them to pay debts from his unsuccessful run for Congress.
In September 1974 he married Sandra Lee Wilder; they divorced in January 1980. Worden married Jill Lee Hotchkiss in July 1982. She died in May 2014. He had two daughters with Pamela Worden, Merrill and Alison, and one stepdaughter, Tamara, from his third marriage. Worden's recreational interests included bowling, water skiing, golf, racquetball and playing the piano.
This still left Worden trying to find a job at NASA; he testified before the committee that he had been told he could stay if he came to an agreement with whoever he was to work for. He 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. According to Low, NASA was aware that the reprimands made the astronauts essentially unpromotable in the Air Force, which would not have jobs for them worth their abilities, and it was decided that though the crew was removed from flight status, they would be given positions elsewhere in NASA. At Ames, Worden served as a Senior Aerospace Scientist, and from 1973 to 1975, chief of the Systems Study Division. He retired from NASA and the Air Force, with the rank of colonel, in 1975.
After leaving the Air Force and NASA, Worden founded Alfred M. Worden, Inc., then served as the director of Energy Management Programs at the Northwood Institute in Midland, Michigan. In 1982, 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. Despite the loss, Worden referred to his run as the high point of his life, "I thought that was a very important thing to do. I put everything into it and lost, but that is okay."
Worden still believed other former astronauts looked at him askance because of the postal covers incident. In 1984, he began to involve himself with the Mercury Seven Foundation, set up by the original astronauts to provide scholarships for promising students in the sciences. Worden was at the time living near KSC and as the Mercury Seven aged, he and other later astronauts took on greater responsibilities. The organization's name was changed to the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation, and in 2005, Worden was elected to chair its board of directors. He served in that capacity until 2011.
Worden held executive positions with Jet Electronics and Technology, Inc., and with B.F. Goodrich prior to his retirement from the business world in 1996. In 2011, Worden's autobiography, Falling to Earth: An Apollo 15 Astronaut's Journey to the Moon made the top 12 of the Los Angeles Times Bestseller list. He also wrote Hello Earth: Greetings from Endeavour (1974), a collection of poetry, in 1974, and a children's book, I Want to Know About a Flight to the Moon (1974).
In the 1998 HBO miniseries From the Earth to the Moon Worden was played by Michael Raynor.
Widely known as "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. In 2018, 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. Worden was a technical consultant to the 2018 film First Man, a biopic of Apollo 11's Neil Armstrong. 2019 saw the establishment of the Astronaut Al Worden Endeavour Scholarship to send "aspiring young space explorers" and their teachers to U.S. Space Camp in Alabama.
Worden died on March 18, 2020, at an assisted living center in Sugar Land, Texas. He was 88. Worden had been suffering from an infection at home in League City, Texas for which he was hospitalized at Texas Medical Center in Houston. He was convalescing at the Sugar Land facility at the time of his death.
A celebration of Worden's life took place on September 19, 2020. This was originally to be a hybrid in-person/online event, but due to the coronavirus pandemic was postponed and made online only. Those paying tribute to Worden included fellow Group 5 astronauts Duke, Haise and Jack Lousma.
Currently, Alfred Worden is 90 years, 4 months and 18 days old. Alfred Worden will celebrate 91st birthday on a Tuesday 7th of February 2023.
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