- Hardcover: 312 pages
- Publisher: Smithsonian Books; 1 edition (July 26 2011)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 158834309X
- ISBN-13: 978-1588343093
- Product Dimensions: 15.9 x 2.5 x 23.4 cm
- Shipping Weight: 567 g
- Average Customer Review: 8 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #725,033 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Falling to Earth: An Apollo 15 Astronaut's Journey to the Moon Hardcover – Jul 26 2011
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“The command module pilot (CMP), the second in command of an Apollo spacecraft, was the least understood and least appreciated crew member by the media and the general public. In Falling to Earth, Al Worden, CMP of Apollo 15, clearly and candidly recounts the wonder, the challenge, the triumph, and the pitfalls of flying to the moon.”
—Neil Armstrong, Gemini 8 and Apollo 11 astronaut
“Ever wonder what it would be like to spend several days orbiting the moon—alone? Al Worden’s expressive description of his Apollo 15 mission takes you there, and then on the 250,000-mile return, falling to Earth. This is not just another space mission book. In his intense, tell-it-as-he-sees-it style, Worden details what led to that wondrous experience and all that followed.”
--John Glenn, first American to orbit the Earth
"The space program first rewarded, and then punished, Al Worden—and he is better for it, as this exceptional book reveals. It’s the full story, told with clarity, insight, and humor, altogether a wonderful read.”
—Michael Collins, Gemini 10 and Apollo 11 astronaut, author of Carrying the Fire
"A rip-roaring adventure—a wry and fascinating chronicle of a time when we actually knew how to fly people to the moon."
—Tom Jones, space shuttle astronaut, author of Sky Walking
“Al Worden does a fine job telling his interesting life story, his important role as the command module pilot for the highly successful Apollo 15 flight—and his abrupt firing as a NASA astronaut. The ins and outs of this latter story and his personal fall to Earth make for especially fascinating reading.”
—William Anders, Major General USAF (ret), Apollo 8 astronaut
“The talented men who made the pioneering flights to the moon were test pilots and scientists, team players and egomaniacs, goodie two-shoes and skirt-chasers, all driven by a shared goal—to go higher, faster, further than anyone in history. Al Worden was one of the best of this elite group: the first rookie astronaut to be entrusted with the tricky job of flying an Apollo command module, and ultimately a member of Apollo 15, the most scientifically productive lunar mission. His story, written with noted space historian Francis French, is a worthy companion to Tom Wolfe’s The Right Stuff.
--Michael Cassutt, co-author of Deke! and We Have Capture"Very few of us flew to the moon, and the stories we brought back with us are special, treasured, and unique. Al is both a pilot and a poet, and his honest portrayal of our exhilarating adventures will move and excite a whole new generation."
Buzz Aldrin, Gemini 12 and Apollo 11 astronaut, author of Magnificent Desolation: The Long Journey Home from the Moon
With the assistance of space historian French (co-author: In the Shadow of the Moon: A Challenging Journey to Tranquility, 1965-1969, 2007, etc.), astronaut Worden, commander of the Apollo 15 module, writes that “it is time to…set the record straight” about the scandal that ended his career in space flight.
The author flew under Colonel Dave Scott with Jim Irwin on the successful 1971 NASA trip to the Moon. When they returned to Earth, the crew found themselves in the midst of a scandal, accused of being paid to take souvenir items into space. Although they denied this, they were grounded from then on. By the summer of 1972, the U.S. Senate was involved, and Congresswoman Leonor Sullivan wanted to know “what's going on at NASA.” They were never charged with violating law or NASA regulations, but it took years for the three flyers to get their good names back. Worden, now in his 70s, has a record that speaks for itself. He is one of “only 24 humans” who have left Earth’s orbit and gone to the Moon. The author describes how astronauts need courage and skill to fly on the Apollo missions and how they had to be prepared to deal with the unexpected: “We focused on the events that could kill us and prepared for them.” Apollo 15, with its on-board instruments and cameras, brought back a treasure trove of data, but they faced many potentially dangerous situations including fragments of broken glass in the weightless environment of the landing module. Worden now helps the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation fund the training of future science and technology students.
On his journey, the author “discovered far more” about the Earth, not only from space, but also in the time and effort spent vindicating himself from what appears to have been an unfair scapegoating.
Nine months after Worden’s (Hello Earth: Greetings from Endeavour) return to Earth, NASA management moved him permanently out of the astronaut office for allegedly profiteering from spaceflight. In this autobiography, he addresses the accusations and how he cleared his name. His focus, however, is on the first half of his life, from childhood to his departure from the Houston space center; he dispatches the last 40 years in two short chapters. The book’s highlight is a detailed and fascinating account of training for and successfully completing the first longer-stay lunar mission. Although Worden clearly regrets sacrificing his marriage for his career, kicks himself for getting involved in questionable financial deals, and obviously has mixed feelings about his former mission commander, he doesn’t dwell on the details or on his emotions. In a low-key conclusion, the author claims he is reconciled with most of his astronaut peers and on better-than-ever terms with NASA. VERDICT A good, occasionally blunt read and a worthy newcomer to the ever-popular genre of astronaut memoirs. Anyone interested in the space program will enjoy Worden’s reminiscences.—Nancy R. Curtis, Univ. of Maine, Orono
Apollo 15 astronaut Worden belongs to one of the most exclusive clubs in the world: men who made it to the moon. His recollections of events leading up to a three-day solo lunar orbit as well as the heady days of the Apollo program would be fascinating enough, but Worden is also the astronaut whom NASA shrouded in a cloud of suspicion. Few people have known why until now, when this caustic, no-holds-barred, former test pilot tells all. What readers will discover is less tabloid tawdriness than controversy surrounding the rare and valuable stamps, or postal covers, that have flown in space. With NASA now officially flying covers onboard shuttle missions, what happened to the Apollo 15 crew seems almost funny. But it had a real impact on careers and friendships, and Worden sheds invaluable light on how much risk we ask our heroes to endure in exchange for little compensation. Worden is eloquent, witty, and brutally honest, still in awe of the company he kept and the history he belongs to. A solid addition to space-literature collections. — Colleen Mondor
About the Author
AL WORDEN served as a support crew member for Apollo 9, backup command module pilot for Apollo 12, and command module pilot for Apollo 15's mission July 26 - August 7, 1971. After retirement from active duty in 1975, Worden spent years in private industry before becoming the Chair of the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation. He lives in Vero Beach, Florida. FRANCIS FRENCH is director of education for the San Diego Air & Space Museum and co-author of the award-winning books Into that Silent Sea and In the Shadow of the Moon.
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All Worton story is no different. As talented and driven as Alan Shepard or Neil Armstrong, but falling off the astronaut constellation, he made sacrifices to perform his duties to the utmost the same as all his colleagues have before or since. His account of the political tempest he found himself in are at times self serving, but an honest and balanced story of a program in transition from the cowboy image of the Mercury seven to today's more professional but undifferentiated personalities.
But this story is unique because he got into trouble with NASA and paid a undue price for it. The behind the scenes politicking at NASA and other background tidbits make for interesting reading.
Falling to earth is a smooth read, not overwrought with analysis of the state of the U.S, space program. Above that, the reader feels he genuinely knows this man who was not a standout at the time because he did his job well and then melted into the background while others returned to the moon.
A little more time could have been spent on updating the reader on the troubles that his commander Dave Scott found himself in years later. He was convicted of fraud and further thoughts on this should have been included because Scott turned out to be not the kind of man who should have been in charge of more upstanding men who were lucky and talented enough to be included on this magnificent adventure.
Next, Worden takes us through his training for the Apollo 15 mission, and his dedication to the science involved in the mission is evident in his masterful words, which allows us a unique, behind-the-scenes look at what is involved in preparing for an Apollo lunar mission. The tragedy of Apollo 15 is that it is mostly known for two things; not only widely regarded as the most successful of all the Apollo moonlanding missions, which amassed an amazing amount of data and results, but for the public chastisement and humiliation of the crew over some postal covers they innocently carried on board - something that had gone unquestioned and unchallenged in almost every previous U.S. human space mission. In Worden's case, he went from being acclaimed a hero of a massively successful space mission to a stunned and shunned innocent being virtually sacked by NASA and shunted off to a small office at the Ames Research Center. Those who knew Al Worden will know he was not one to take such unwarranted persecution lightly, and in this book he sets out in very concise prose the actions he took, and in dramatic fashion lays the blame squarely where he feels it belongs - even at the expense of questioning the actions (or lack of action) of his fellow crewmembers.
This is an unrelentingly good story, filled with heroics of the Right Stuff calibre, but also one which tells for the first, full time the iniquitous way in which NASA and the U.S. government treated three men who had done nothing more than fall into the trap of simply doing what other astronauts and crews had done before them. They were savaged in Congress and in the press of the day, and the covers issue today remains an unfair blight on an otherwise amazing flight to the moon and back.
Al Worden will obviously alienate some people with whom he worked and flew in this revealing, hard-hitting book, but he will also make a host of new friends and allies as readers follow him on this most incredible journey through life and into space, and the aftermath of a notorious, unwarranted scandal that brought his otherwise-spotless career and reputation to an abrupt halt.
As one would expect of the eloquent Al Worden, this is a first-rate book. He and Francis French have masterfully put together an absorbing, true-life tale that will be read and appreciated by many. Despite my own meagre participation in this book, I regard it as a new classic of the space age.
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