CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — Apollo 15 astronaut Al Worden, who circled the moon alone in 1971 while his two crewmates test-drove the first lunar rover, died Wednesday at age 88.
Worden died in his sleep at a rehab center in Houston following treatment for an infection, friend and colleague Tom Kallman said.
“Al was an American hero whose achievements in space and on Earth will never be forgotten,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said in a statement. He also praised Worden for his appearances on “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” to explain his moon mission to children.
Worden flew to the moon in 1971 along with David Scott and Jim Irwin. As command module pilot, Worden remained in lunar orbit aboard the Endeavour while Scott and Irwin descended to the surface and tried out NASA’s first moon buggy.
Scott is one of four moonwalkers still alive. Irwin died in 1991.
“‘Line of Grey, Be Thou at Peace!’ Godspeed Al,” tweeted Apollo 11 moonwalker Buzz Aldrin, borrowing from their West Point alma mater.
Once his moonwalking crewmates were back on board and headed home, Worden performed the first deep-space spacewalk — nearly 200,000 miles from Earth. He inspected the service module’s science instrument bay and retrieved film. His foray outside lasted just 38 minutes.
Worden said of the mission: “Now I know why I’m here. Not for a closer look at the moon, but to look back at our home, the Earth.”
Apollo 15 was Worden’s only spaceflight. He was in NASA’s fifth astronaut class, chosen in 1966. He retired from NASA in 1975 and went to work for a few aerospace companies.
Of the 24 men who flew to the moon from 1968 through 1972, only 11 are still alive.
Born and raised on a farm in Jackson, Mich., Worden graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., in 1955 and was commissioned in the Air Force. He attended test pilot school.