Moon Orbiting Astronaut Al Worden Pans the Space Shuttle Program

1971 NASA photo of astronaut Al Worden Speaking in the Omnisphere Theater at the Coca-Coal Space Science Center,  the man who orbited the moon in 1971, didn’t have much positive to say about the U.S. Space Shuttle.  “It’s a dangerous vehicle,” he told the audience on the eve of the anniversary of the 1986 Challenger disaster that took the lives of 7 United States astronauts. 

He did say, however, that if the shuttle had been successful in its original mission it would have been good.  The original mission was to provide a low-cost shuttle back and forth to the International Space Station, but the cost skyrocketed, and if the Apollo program had been continued it would have cost a lot less.

After his talk, I asked him if there was anything positive about the Shuttle. He said there were some things. For one, it put the Hubble Space Telescope into orbit.

“Should we put a man on the moon again?”

“I don’t care,” was his response.

“In other words, we shouldn’t.”

“No. The moon is nothing.”

He added that he thought we should go beyond the moon. 

A lady interjected, “Wouldn’t the moon be a good platform to launch further space exploration?”

He didn’t think it was necessary.  

He does support NASA and  the continuing exploration of outer space.   He was invited by the Coca-Cola Space and Science Center to participate in commemorating and honoring the legacy of bravery and dedication to space exploration by the crew of the Challenger Shuttle that blew up in January of 1986.

I have to admit it was somewhat special to meet and chat with a man who had orbited the moon.  He was friendly and willing to answer any questions about his experiences. He was the Apollo 15 Command Module Pilot. As David Scott and Jim Irwin explored the surface of the moon, Col. (ret.) Worden orbited the moon alone for three days in the command ship “Endeavour.”  On the trip back to earth, Worden took the furthest deep space walk, moving along the outside of “Endeavour” to retrieve film from two moon-mapping cameras.

He said the most exciting moment about the trip to the moon was when the Endeavour rotated around and he saw the moon looming large.  “We hadn’t seen the moon for 20 hours,” he said, pointing out that they were flying backwards to the moon so they didn’t see it until they were almost there. 

He had high praise for the Coca-Cola Space Science Center, praise that I echo.  It is truly a great place to learn about astronomy and space travel.  If you are really into those things, you might want to do what I just did and become a member of the Center.  The Center’s Executive Director Shawm Cruzen puts it this way:  “You can join in on the mission. Support the future of science education. Help inspire the next generation of space explorers. Become a member of CSU’s Coca-Cola Space Science Center.”

   

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