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February 14, 2013 - 12:50am

Alumni Profile: Al Worden


Colonel Al Worden has accomplished a feat that only 23 other people can say they have done: He has been to the moon. Worden, who received two Masters degrees in 1963 and an honorary Doctorate of Science in 1971, was the command module pilot for Apollo 15, the fourth manned lunar landing mission.

How did you get involved in the space program?

I was selected because I was good at what I did. I was in the Air Force; and I decided that I would be the best pilot in the Air Force that I could be, which meant I went to the University of Michigan, got a couple of masters’ degrees, and when they had a selection at NASA, I had everything they wanted. What I found is if you find a career that you really like, you really put everything in that career to be the best you can, you find that along the way, other doors open that you never thought about, and the space program was one of those for me.

What did you do on the Apollo 15 excursion?

I flew everyone from earth to the moon, so I got the flying time. While in lunar orbit, 80 percent of the time I looked at the surface and analyzed the macro-features on the lunar surface, while Dave Scott and Jim Irwan, on the surface of the moon, looked at the micro-features such as small rocks and dust. I looked at the large features like meteor impact basons, volcanic basons and that kind of thing. The idea was that by doing both the macro and microanalysis, we could build a picture of how the moon was formed and what it was all about.

What did you study at the University?

I came back in 1961. I was in the Air Force, and the Air Force had a program where they sent some of their officers back to college because they were in the missile business and they needed technical people to take care of the rockets and missiles. I went back in the guided missile program at the University of Michigan, which is something that I used extensively when I got down to Houston because it was all about inertial guidance, orbital activities, and trajectories, in addition to all of the aviation stuff we were taught, so it made an ideal background to go to Houston.