Al Worden

Lands in Scotland

A review by Ken MacTaggart

The Apollo 15 Command Module Pilot, US Air Force Colonel Alfred Worden, made an entertaining and  well attended visit to Scotland during 19-22 May 2011. 

 

The event was one several marking the 40th anniversary of his historic flight to the Moon with NASA colleagues Dave Scott and Jim Irwin in July 1971 – a flight which is still regarded one of the greatest expeditions of space exploration ever undertaken. Al Worden first spoke to a large group of Lanarkshire school pupils at New Wellwynd Church in Airdrie on Friday 20th May.  The children gave him a great foot-stamping welcome, listened in fascination to the account of his space flight, and bombarded him questions. 

In the evening, Colonel Worden (who is no stickler for formalities – his catchphrase is “call me Al”), gave an illustrated public lecture at Glasgow Caledonian University. He recalled his extraordinary ride on a giant Saturn V rocket into Earth orbit, with a craft so heavy that the final stage barely scraped out of the atmosphere, before lighting up again to fire the crew and their equipment off to the Moon.With the Earth shrinking rapidly in the background, Al described how he separated his craft from the final rocket stage and turned to extract the lunar lander from its launch position.  He next set up Apollo 15 in a “barbecue roll” to ensure it was not damaged by the intense solar heat.

Apollo 15 Astronaut, Al Worden, visits Airdrie Observatory Scotland as part of Walk With Destiny event 2011

Al Worden's visit to Airdrie Observatory

He went on to show photographs of Apollo 15’s extraordinary mountain landing site, and explain the scientific investigations he undertook.  The stars as he saw them from the dark side of the Moon were a dazzling sheet of light, so that he could barely pick out his navigation guidance stars which were so prominent from Earth.Then he told of his pioneering spacewalk in deep space, poised awesomely between the Earth and the Moon.  Most memorably, after he’d done his work, he floated back to rear of the craft and snatched a few moments on his own in open space, hanging silently between two worlds. 

Apollo Astronaut, Al Worden and Author, David Woods at the Walk With Destiny event at Glasgow Caledonian University, 2011
Al Worden and Author, David Woods at the public lecture at Glasgow Caledonian University
Apollo 15 Astronaut, Al warden at a Q&A Session at the Glasgow Marriott Hotel at Walk With Destiny event 2011
Al Worden at the Q&A session at the Glasgow Marriott Hotel

The next morning started with a question-and-answer session at the Glasgow Marriott hotel. This offered the rare opportunity for friendly conversation, in a relaxed setting over coffee, with one of the few Earthlings who have travelled to the Moon.  Al was energetic, lively and sharp as a pin – with great recall of his extraordinary achievements all those years ago.On the Saturday evening, a sumptuous dinner at the Marriott was followed by Al’s after-dinner talk and an auction of space memorabilia, including such exclusives as an autographed photo of Buzz Aldrin, second man on the Moon.  Guests travelled from England, Belgium and Northern Ireland for the event.

Then came a disco in which Aileen Malone realised one of her secret ambitions – to dance to Frank Sinatra’s Fly Me to The Moon with someone who has really done it!  Next up was Dean Martin with Amore – perhaps not quite scientifically accurate, with its “when the Moon hits your eye like a big-a pizza pie”, but no less appropriate!  It was an evening not to be missed !

In between lectures, discussion forums, raffles and autograph signings, Al took time out to visit some traditional Scottish hostelries in Airdrie and Glasgow.  He is a warm and friendly guy, a great conversationalist, and if he had any trouble with the various heavy West of Scotland dialects in the company, he rarely showed it!All in, it was a truly great event, and a rare opportunity to meet and talk with one of only 18 people alive who have made the journey from the Earth to the Moon.

Apollo 15 Astronaut, Al Worden dances with With Waith Destiny Founder, Aileen Malone to frank Sinatra song "Fly Me To The Moon"
Al dances with Aileen to Frank Sinatra's 'Fly me to the Moon'

Ken MacTaggart is Co-editor of the Apollo 11 Flight Journal and writes about space for The Scotsman, The Herald, The Independent, Spaceflight magazine and other publications.

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Apollo 15 Astronaut, Al Worden at his visit to Airdrie Observatory in 2011 thanks to Walk With Destiny

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Apollo 15 Astronaut, Al Worden during his visit to Scotland in 2011 with Walk With Destiny

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Apollo Astronaut, Al Worden with Gail Brown

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Apollo Astronaut, Al Worden, visits local Wetherspoons pub, The Robert Hamilton in Airdrie, Scotland. Part of his 2011 Walk with Destiny visit to Scotland.

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Apollo Astronaut, Al Worden, visits Airdrie Observatory in 2011.

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Gerardine & Mairead

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Gillian wins raffle

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Apollo 15 Astronaut, Al Worden, visits Airdrie Observatory as part of his Walk With Destiny visit to Scotland in 2011

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Q&A session at the Marriott Hotel

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Al Worden mingles with guests at the Mariott Hotel

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Al Worden talks to North Lanarkshire School children

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Apollo 15 Astronaut, al Worden, mingling with young guests at the gala dinner in the Marriott Hotel in Glasgow as part of his 2011 Walk With Destiny visit to Glasgow, Scotland.

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Dinner at the Marriot

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Speaking at the dinner

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Apollo Astronaut, Al Worden, Spends time speaking to local School children during his 2011 Walk With Destiny visit to Scotland.

Inspiring school children in Airdrie

During his visit, Colonel Worden spoke to hundreds of school children in Airdrie in partnership with Airdrie Astronomical Association, as we try to inspire the next generation of Space explorers. 

 

The first Scottish astronaut is out there!

 

Filmed by 29studios.com in New Wellynd Parish Church, Airdrie in May 2011.