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Falling to Earth: An Apollo 15 Astronaut's Journey to the Moon Hardcover – July 26, 2011


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 312 pages
  • Publisher: Smithsonian Books; 1 edition (July 26, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 158834309X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1588343093
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.4 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (64 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #409,774 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

“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

KIRKUS REVIEWS

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.

LIBRARY JOURNAL

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

BOOKLIST

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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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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Good story of his life and demonstrates the sacrifices he made.
Steve
I own the biographies of all the Mercury-Gemini-Apollo astronauts and Al Worden's is among the best, right up there with Mike Collins' biography.
DocRWM
The book is written in more of a conversational tone and flows very well.
Jim Vertrees

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

45 of 46 people found the following review helpful By Bruce Moody on July 27, 2011
Format: Hardcover
OK, think about what you're doing right now at this very moment, reading this sentence and being aware of your immediate surroundings. Now, think about when Apollo 15 astronaut Al Worden took the first walk ever in deep space 40 years ago and became the first human in history to see both the entire Earth and the Moon simply by turning his head. Feel any different? I know I do!

But that's only one of the "oh my gosh!" moments in "Falling To Earth", and there are many. But perhaps most important is the opportunity to understand an Apollo lunar mission from the perspective of the CMP (Command Module Pilot); the one crew member who stayed aboard and minded the spacecraft while his other two crewmates roamed the lunar surface. Many times overlooked and taken for granted by the moon walking component of the mission, Apollo 15's CMP Al Worden had a very full plate of science experiments to conduct and on-board system instruments to constantly monitor. Space is not a very forgiving place when mistakes occur. Without this critical crewmember consistently performing at his peak, and flying solo for much of the mission, there is no way the full crew would have had a chance of ever returning safely to Earth.

The book has a very nice conversational tone which, to me, is very appealing. The tone is set from the first chapter so that the reader immediately feels as if they're actually being "told" the story from Worden himself. I find this to be very refreshing, practically an honor, as if I'm sitting in Worden's company, while he tells his story.

In addition to the chronology of his various career moves, the book gives the reader a solid sense of how Worden thinks.
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31 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Gary Schroeder on August 8, 2011
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Al Worden has some things to get off of his chest. And he's been waiting almost 40 years to talk about them. All that plus rockets, spaceflight, and a real behind-the-scenes account of one Apollo astronaut's experience is what you'll get in the delightful "Falling to Earth."

Worden, though not a household name to most Americans, is well known to Apollo buffs the world over as the command module pilot of Apollo 15. Though not one of the twelve humans to walk upon the moon, he has the even rarer distinction of being one of only seven human to orbit the moon solo.

A flood of Apollo books started appearing in the late 1980s, with a wide range of quality and authenticity. On the low end of the scale we have the flimsy, ghost-written "Moonshot" ostensibly related by Alan Shepard to the outstanding "Carrying the Fire" by Michael Collins, long regarded as the pinnacle of the genre. I'm happy to report that "Falling to Earth" is on the high end of this scale.

Worden's account succeeds for one simple reason: his story rings true. You get the feeling that this is a man who's not a trained author, but someone who has poured his heart into writing a direct, vivid and honest account of his life's achievements. He comes across as humble and friendly. I had the feeling that I was having a friendly chat with him in my living room. No pretense, no "right stuff" machismo, just a lot of "this is what happened and I'm proud to say that I was there to be part of it."

Other astronaut bio's have removed the sheen of perfection from the 1960s NASA PR machine, so there's no fresh ground broken there, but...Worden does make some very direct statements about his past colleagues that may surprise some.
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53 of 57 people found the following review helpful By The Florida Reviewer on August 18, 2011
Format: Hardcover
A different astronaut biography? How's that you say, after all, most biographies are either lunar centric or space in some manner, and they mostly relate the same experiences (although the effect was varied).

Well, pull up a chair and let me explain. But first, a disclaimer before someone makes a point of it, I worked with Al for a few years, and have known him for over 25 years. But he is a man of such integrity he would be offended if I were to simply write a review in flowery language to boost his sales. No, he would demand integrity on my part as well.

Because that's the man Al Worden is, full of integrity and not only a product of West Point, but an adherent to all that is good about the Point.

So if this ruffles a few feathers, well, that's the way it will be. Honest, to a fault.

Most astronaut biographies are well written. This is no exception. But what sets this book apart from the others is not only the brutal honesty of the scenario involving the philatelic covers so called "scandal", but a viewpoint from a poets mind. Oh not a poet prior to the flight of course. No Al is your arch typical Air Force fighter jock and test pilot.

Al has written 2 previous books, one a kids book about his flight to the moon, and another of poetry from his time in space all alone. "Hello Earth, Greetings from Endeavour" is a good look into the soul of Col. Worden.

His career was sterling. His mission to the moon flawless. He is not a moonwalker as pointed out, that elite fraternity of only 12 men that have set foot on another planetary body. No. But he IS part of that elite fraternity of 6 men who orbited the Moon all alone, and took care of things so the 2 ON the Moon had a place to return to and to be able to get them home.
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