Holiday in Florida - Heros – Al Worden Part 2

Posted by Kevin Brady on Wed 22nd November 2006 at 11:22 PM, Filed in Industry News

The second aspect of my visit to Florida, which left a deep impression on me, was a visit to the Kennedy Space Centre where we attended a lunch with the Astronaut Al Worden which at a price per head of $36.99 was far far too cheap for a good lunch and a honoured presentation by a real hero such as Al Worden. Al for those who do not know was the command module pilot for Apollo 15 between the 15th July and 26th August 1971 along with Commander David R.Scott and Lunar Module Pilot James B.Irwin.

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Apollo 15 was the fourth manned lunar landing mission and the first to visit and explore the moon’s Hadley Rille and Apennine Mountains, which are located on the southeast edge of Mare Imbrium (Sea of Rains).

Apollo 15 achievements included:

• Largest payloads placed in earth and lunar orbits:
• First scientific instrument module bay flown and operated on an Apollo spacecraft

• Longest lunar surface stay time (66 hours and 54 minutes)

• Longest lunar surface EVA (18 hours and 35 minutes)

• Longest distance traversed on lunar surface

• First use of a lunar roving vehicle

• First use of a lunar surface navigation device (mounted on Rover -1)

• First sub satellite launched in lunar orbit

• First EVA from a command module out of earth orbit for which Col Woden still holds a record for the furthest deep space EVA.

As an IT Consultant for most of my working life I am used to presentational razzmatazz and it is extremely rare these days for a presentation to leave me spell bound. However, this is the effect that Astronaut Al Worden had on my family and myself. When you see the spacecrafts they travelled to the moon in and how small and flimsy they were (walls on the spacecraft were sometimes no thicker than 2 sheets of bacon foil and run by today’s standards primitive technology) you have to take your hat off and respect the bravery of these great men.

This is especially so when you bear in mind the deaths of Guss Grissom the commander of Apollo 1, and his crew, astronauts Ed White and Roger B.Chaffee due to a fire at Cape Kennedy on January 27, 1967 and the near disaster of Apollo 13. These events highlighted in reality the high risks associated with space travel and would have given me a “Butt cheek clench factor of 10 out of 10” if it was me riding the rocket let alone people like Al Woden.

Apart from his undeniable bravery, the next thing, which hits you, is that this man in his 70’s had a razor sharp mind and is clearly a very able man with an air of modesty and calmness, which comes from having achieved great things during his very full life. He had me transfixed as he explained the real risks of being hit by micro meteors which were apparently visible (passed by the windows in the spaceship) as they passed through space and Al’s description of flashing cosmic rays inside his eyes as the particles left trails as they passed through the vitreous humour within the eye ball. When you add the risk of solar flares, the whole thing from an e-to-e perspective looks really really scary.

Finally, Al gave some hints that during his days of loneliness in the Command Module whilst his colleagues were walking around on the moon, that the sights of stars shining through the valleys on the edge moon as he swung round the dark side of the moon had an effect on him of spiritual proportions. This aspect of his presentation was never explored, which was a shame and would have given an incredibly interesting incite into the psyche of the men who traveled to the moon.

The question I wanted to know and left me in much thoughtful contemplation on the subsequent flight home was “How did their experiences as astronauts and travelling to the moon, effect their lives once the Apollo programme had ended?” It took a phone call with my brother on my return home from Florida to discover that a book called “Moondust” by Andrew Smith had been written attempting to answer this question through recorded interviews with the moon shot astronauts. This book was a bestseller and I think would make a wonderful Christmas present for those space buffs amongst us.
 
The real sadness which came over me towards the end of Al’s presentation is that only 9 people survive who actually stepped foot on the moon. All these guys are in the 70s and 80s and soon these wonderful men and soon their experiences will be lost to the world forever as a nice lady reminded me in the JFK Space Centre shop which in my view is one of the best space memorabilia shops in the world. Despite speeches by George Bush and others that NASA will be back on the moon in the next decade, I do not sadly share his belief due to what seems to me to be a lack of national and political will to pay the budgetary and human price. I hope that I am wrong on this one, as ultimately the future of the human race depends on our ability to travel to other worlds.
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Brady Family with Al Worden “Opps seems I left my Trouser flies undone”

America is a wonderful place. Until one takes, the opportunity to see the country from end to end does one you really appreciate why George Bush never possessed a passport until he became president. Why bother when you have every type of landscape and climate in one country ranging from the glaciers and tundra of Alaska in the North to the swamps of the Everglades in the south. Amazing place populated be some of the most amazing people.

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