Alfred M. Worden served as Command Module pilot on the 1971 Apollo 15 lunar landing mission, during which he orbited the moon and took a space walk a record 200,000 miles from Earth.
Worden was born on February 7, 1932, in Jackson, Michigan. A graduate of Jackson High School, he received a Bachelor of Science degree in Military Science from the U.S. Military Academy in 1955, and in 1963, Master of Science degrees in Astronautical/Aeronautical Engineering and Instrumentation Engineering, both from the University of Michigan.
After graduation from West Point, Worden was commissioned in the U.S. Air Force and received flight training at Moore Air Force Base (AFB), Texas, and Tyndall AFB, Florida. He next served as a pilot and armament officer with the 95th Fighter Interceptor Squadron at Andrews AFB, Maryland. In 1965, he graduated from both the Empire Test Pilots School in Farnborough, England, and the Aerospace Research Pilots School at Edwards AFB, California. He was an instructor at the latter when NASA selected him as one of nineteen new astronauts in April 1966. Alfred Worden has logged more than 4,000 hours flying time, including 2,500 hours in jets.
Worden served as a member of the astronaut support crew for the Apollo 9 flight, and was the backup Command Module pilot for the Apollo 12 flight before being named Command Module pilot for Apollo 15, with Spacecraft Commander David Scott and Lunar Module pilot Jim Irwin.
Apollo 15 blasted off from Kennedy Space Center, Florida on July 26, 1971. From July 30 to August 2, Worden orbited the Moon alone in the command ship Endeavor while Scott and Irwin took the Lunar Module Falcon to the Moon surface. For more than 31 hours they explored a mountainous region on the edge of the Mare Imbrium, driving the first Lunar Rover, a specially designed electric car, on the moon’s surface.
While in orbit, Worden remotely photographed the Moon’s surface with two special cameras mounted outside the ship. Scott and Irwin rendezvoused with Worden on August 2, and the Falcon was released to crash on the lunar surface as part of a seismic experiment. While the Endeavor was still in lunar orbit the astronauts released a satellite to measure magnetic fields near the Moon, the first time a satellite had been deployed by a lunar mission.
On August 5, during the homeward journey, Alfred Worden made a 38-minute spacewalk 200,000 miles from Earth, making three trips along handrails on the outside of Endeavor to the rear of the ship to retrieve film cassettes from the two Moon-mapping cameras. His Extravehicular Activity (EVA) remains the farthest from Earth that anyone has ever performed a spacewalk. It was necessary because the Service Module section to which the cameras were mounted would be jettisoned to burn up before Apollo 15’s reentry into Earth’s atmosphere.
Apollo 15 concluded with a Pacific splashdown and subsequent recovery by the USS Okinawa on August 7, 1971. In completing his only space flight, Worden logged 295 hours and 11 minutes in space. For this mission, he received the Air Force Command Pilot Astronaut Wings. Deeply affected by his experiences during Apollo 15, in 1974, Worden wrote a book of poems entitled Hello Earth: Greetings from Endeavour.
In 1972, he was designated backup Command Module pilot for the Apollo 17 mission. From 1972 to 1973, Worden was also the Senior Aerospace Scientist at the NASA Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California, and from 1973 to 1975, he was chief of Systems Studies Division at Ames.
After retiring from both NASA and the Air Force in 1975, Colonel Worden became president of Alfred M. Worden, Inc., then the director of Energy Management Programs at the Northwood Institute in Midland, Michigan, and later vice president of the High Flight Foundation in Colorado Springs, Colorado. He currently serves as Chairman of the Board for the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation in Florida. The Foundation provides scholarships for college students who exhibit motivation, imagination, and exceptional performance in the science or engineering field of their major.