VERO BEACH, FL -- The most famous Apollo astronaut living on the Treasure Coast, Apollo 15 command module pilot Al Worden, is probably best known for taking a space walk 200,000 miles from Earth outside the command ship Endeavour as moon walkers David Scott and Jim Irwin explored the lunar surface.
Before that 1971 mission, Worden served on the back-up crew for Apollo 12 that launched six months after Apollo 11 and had been ready to be the first mission to land on the moon had Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin been waived off their historic touch down.
Reflecting on the significance of being the first to attempt a moon landing, Worden called Apollo 11’s near flawless mission “the bottom line of the Apollo program.”
“That’s what everybody was shooting for — that’s what President (John) Kennedy told us to do,” Worden, 77, said from his summer home in Michigan.
“We actually did it in, like, eight years instead of 10, even with the Apollo 1 fire,” he said. “It was a fabulous program; the country can be proud of it.”
Worden, who participates in the Astronaut Encounter at Kennedy Space Center and for years has chaired the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation, said on July 20, 1969, he was sitting in a T-38 aircraft on a California airstrip when word came the Eagle was about to land on the moon.
“I sat there and listened to the air-to-ground until they landed and then I took off and went back to Houston,” Worden recalled. “That was pretty euphoric at the time: that they’d actually done what we had planned for them to do. Even though in the back of our minds, we thought something along the way would happen, that they would not be able to do it.”
On July 16, the anniversary of Apollo 11’s launch from Earth, Worden joined astronauts Walt Cunningham of Apollo 7, Buzz Aldrin of Apollo 11, Edgar Mitchell of Apollo 14 and Charlie Duke of Apollo 16 at the Kennedy Space Center for two days of events marking the 40th anniversary of the first moon landing.
“If anyone wants to see what it was all about,” noted Worden, “all they have to do is go to the Cape and see the Saturn V.”
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