WMA Chairman, Chris Starr, travelled up to Yorkshire on 15th-16th March for the visit of Col. Alfred (‘Al’) Worden, Apollo 15 Command Module Pilot, organised by BIS* Fellow Ken Willoughby.  Col. Worden visited Carleton Community High School in Pontefract, a school with a tradition of Apollo astronaut visits, where he gave a public lecture, as well as meeting students from the school who interviewed him for a video. Space exploration enthusiasts were also able to meet and speak informally with him at a dinner given in his honour.

Chris, a member of the BIS, also conducted an interview with Al Worden, for later publication, about his work at NASA and his historic Apollo 15 mission in the summer of 1971, as well as his time at the Empire Test Pilot School in Farnborough during the early 1960s, and his reflections on the current state of play in manned space exploration.

At the time, NASA said that Apollo 15 was the most successful manned mission ever achieved, and it was the first of the J-missions to the Moon, with longer stays on the Moon and a greater emphasis on science than had been possible on previous missions (Apollos 11, 12 and 14). Using the lunar rover for the first time to extend the range of scientific study on the lunar surface, Commander Dave Scott and Lunar Module Pilot Jim Irwin collected 77kg (170lbs) of rock samples during 18½ hours of extra-vehicular activity (EVA).

Al Worden, flying the Command Module in lunar orbit for over 6 days, conducted key photographic and remote-sensing operations to map and study the composition of the Moon from above. He also became the first person to do an EVA in deep-space, nearly 200,000 miles from Earth during the return flight, in order to retrieve the cartridges of exposed film from the cameras in the Scientific Instrument Module (SIM) bay in the side of the Apollo Service Module.

Al’s passion for his work and his warm and friendly personality enabled all those who met or listened to him over the weekend to share closely in one of the greatest scientific endeavours of all time – ‘Exploration at its greatest’. He also treated us to many humorous anecdotes and insights into the life of an astronaut. It was a memorable and unique occasion!

You can learn more about Al’s life and his time at NASA in his autobiography, ‘Falling To Earth’ – Al Worden with Francis French (Smithsonian Books).

* BIS – The British Interplanetary Society

Apollo_15-insignia.png                                        Apollo_15_Worden_EVA.jpg

Apollo 15 Patch and Al's EVA   Courtesy: NASA


Al and Chris

Photo :Alan Thompson


This interview was followed by several articles in Spaceflight (Vol 55 No 6 June 2013) a BIS magazine