Flew Apollo 15 Command Module to an inhuman apogee, made first deep space EVA
Al Worden, an Apollo astronaut who earned the title of most isolated human, has died aged 88 of a stroke.
Worden was Command Module pilot for July 1971’s Apollo 15 mission, a role that saw him spend three days in lunar orbit while colleagues commander David Scott and Lunar Module pilot James Irwin visited the moon.
During Worden’s 74 orbits of the moon, the Command Module reached a point 3,597km away from Scott and Irwin, and also the farthest point from Earth. That moment earned Worden the unofficial title of “world’s most isolated man”.
On the return journey he completed the first spacewalk in deep space, venturing outside the Command Module to retrieve film from a canister on the craft’s exterior. It remains one of just three deep space extra-vehicular activities. This NASA image depicts that spacewalk.
NASA’s biography (PDF) of Worden says he was born on February 7, 1932. He received a bachelor of military science degree from the United States Military Academy at West Point, then won a commission in the United States Air Force.
He rose to become an instructor at the Aerospace Research Pilots School and also graduated from the Empire Test Pilots School in Farnborough, England, before becoming part of NASA’s 1966 astronaut intake.
Worden was a member of the astronaut support crew for the Apollo 9 flight and backup command module pilot for the Apollo 12 flight.
Apollo 15 was the first lunar mission to include a rover, returned 77kg of lunar material to Earth for study and even launched a small lunar satellite. At 12 days and seven hours, it was the second-longest Apollo mission.
Worden served in senior roles at NASA Ames Research Center until 1975, when he left the service to pursue a career in the aerospace business. He was celebrated for his career and his commitment to education. ®