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Falling to Earth: An Apollo 15 Astronaut's Journey to the Moon [Paperback]

Alfred M. Worden
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)

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Book Description

23 Aug 2012
As command module pilot for the Apollo 15 mission to the moon in 1971, Al Worden flew on what is widely regarded as the greatest exploration mission that humans have ever attempted. He spent six days orbiting the moon, including three days completely alone, the most isolated human in existence. During the return from the moon to earth he also conducted the first spacewalk in deep space, becoming the first human ever to see both the entire earth and moon simply by turning his head. The Apollo 15 flight capped an already-impressive career as an astronaut, including important work on the pioneering Apollo 9 and Apollo 12 missions, as well as the perilous flight of Apollo 13.

Nine months after his return from the moon, Worden received a phone call telling him he was fired and ordering him out of his office by the end of the week. He refused to leave. What happened in those nine months, from being honored with parades and meetings with world leaders to being unceremoniously fired, has been a source of much speculation for four decades. Worden has never before told the full story around the dramatic events that shook NASA and ended his spaceflight career. Readers will learn them here for the first time, along with the exhilarating account of what it is like to journey to the moon and back. It's an unprecedentedly candid account of what it was like to be an Apollo astronaut, with all its glory but also its pitfalls.


Product details

  • Paperback: 312 pages
  • Publisher: Smithsonian Books; Reprint edition (23 Aug 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9781588343338
  • ISBN-13: 978-1588343338
  • ASIN: 1588343332
  • Product Dimensions: 2 x 15.9 x 22.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 950,857 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Welcome Treat 7 Oct 2011
By Tony
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
So long after the end of the Apollo programme, it's a treat to get another astronaut's memoir. I was particularly pleased to see this because I have always felt that Apollo 15 (Worden was the Command Module Pilot) was one of the most successful missions. 15 was the first of the extended "J" missions, doing much more science and including such additions as as the lunar rover (an electric car before its time) and Worden's own space walk, some 196,000 miles from home.

The biggest surprise was perhaps that this is a really good memoir. It reads well and still manages, even after all this time, to add something to your understanding of that magnificent achievement of going to the moon. It may be because of that time, giving some perspective, that this book succeeds - though it all still feels fresh. It may be because of Worden's role: the less publicised job of staying in orbit around the moon, minding the mother-ship and, for the first time on 15, doing a huge amount of science (the book is a great complement to Mike Collins' "Carrying the Fire", about the same role but written very soon after the first landing - an equally good but quite different book).

For Apollo buffs, there is a further bonus as Worden recounts previously untold details of the infamous postal covers story, a scandal that blighted the Apollo 15 crew after the flight. This is thankfully not allowed to spoil the main story but is still good to have in the open. If you're not familiar with this, don't let it put you off, this is first and foremost a pacy and readable account of an exciting adventure. It works either as a place to start reading about the men who went to the moon or as another piece in understanding the whole Apollo jigsaw.

I enjoyed this, all the more for it suddenly appearing as a new view on Apollo.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing Journey Through Space and Life 2 Aug 2011
Format:Hardcover
In fairness, I should first point out that I have collaborated with Francis French on two books for the University of Nebraska Press, but my only input into this remarkable book has been to read through the draft looking for any hidden faults for the authors. This is truly an exceptional piece of writing, and tells a story filled with dramatic facts about the flight and aftermath of Apollo 15 that has long been concealed from public scrutiny, albeit known in essence by those who follow spaceflight history. Al Worden was the Command Module Pilot aboard Apollo 15 who not only participated in one of the most significant science missions in all of spaceflight history, but suffered the dire consequences of an error in human judgement that led to the entire crew being publicly stood down from future NASA flight duties. This book has been described in another (Amazon U.S.) review as "no holds barred," and that is a true description of the revelations Worden makes in this book. In the first part of the book we learn about his childhood upbringing and the many influences in his early life, and then the military and flying career that brought him to the attention of NASA. As a member of the fifth group of astronauts he came to know many of his colleagues very well, some certainly not as the superhuman beings portrayed in the media of the time, but as human beings, with their differing traits and foibles.

Next, Worden takes us through his training for the Apollo 15 mission, and his dedication to the science involved in the mission is evident in his masterful words, which allows us a unique behind-the-scenes look at what is involved in preparing for an Apollo lunar mission.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Apollo era Autobiography 6 Aug 2011
By P. Bradshaw VINE VOICE
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Al Worden is one of the least well-known Apollo era astronauts - he was a member of the ground-breaking scientific crew that was Apollo 15, commanded by Dave Scott, with Jim Irwin as LMP and Worden as CMP. Sadly, Apollo 15 is probably best known for the "stamp scandal" that engulfed the crew and left them in ignominy for many years. In this warts and all story, Al Worden, tells a remarkable tale of what it was like to be an astronaut in the hey day of the Moon missions; it is told in a very easy going style (and having had the privilege of meeting Al), you can hear his voice through the words on the page. I have read many of the Apollo era autobiographies and would say that this is certainly in my top-five - along with those of Walt Cunningham (Apollo 7), Tom Stafford (Apollo 10), Deke Slayton (ASTP) and Mike Collins (Apollo 11). Great stuff, the Right Stuff!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Life after journey to the Moon 15 Oct 2011
By Gurbir
Format:Hardcover
"Falling to Earth"' is Al Worden's autobiography, written with the British but USA based space historian Francis French. To mark the 40th anniversary of the launch (on 26th July 1971)of Apollo 15, Worden has published the story of his mission as Apollo 15's command module pilot CMP) and deals in details with what came to be known as the "covers incident". With a foreword by Dick Gordon, an epilogue by Tom Stafford and further praise on the back cover from Michael Collins, Buzz Aldrin and John Glen, Worden has finally received the personal redemption from those that he considers matter most - fellow astronauts.

In this three hundred page book Worden describes how Apollo 15 commander Dave Scott arranged a deal with a German businessman for the whole crew. They would fly 100 postal covers to the Moon and back for him to sell privately and discreetly after the space program was over or they left NASA. In return he would set up a trust account of 7000USD in a German Bank for each astronaut to be used for their children's education. Within months after Apollo 15 returned the covers were on the open market with Deke Slayton receiving queries about their authenticity from potential buyers.

Despite surviving the hazardous journey to the Moon, Worden regards his ultimately unsuccessful political campaign for congress as his toughest personal challenge.

Like any good wine, Worden's story benefits from the long interval offering a deeper insight into the human element of human spaceflight. Written in a slick punchy style it is entertaining and remarkably informative equally for those who remember the Apollo era and those unfortunate to have been born after it was over.

Two dozen Americans visited the Moon between 1968 and 1972.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
GREAT READ
Published 17 days ago by gibson
5.0 out of 5 stars Inspiring read
An autobiography that makes you empathise with its subject whilst marvelling at his achievements. Al Worden is one of only twenty four people on Earth to have travelled to the... Read more
Published 4 months ago by Djimi Showbiz
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic Read....Loved it ....Very Well Written!!
If you have lived through the 60's and were Witness to the Apollo Programme, then this book is for you. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Rupert Finch
5.0 out of 5 stars Falling to earth
A very readable,honest and worthy addition to the many apollo autobiographies. Up there with fellow CMP Mike Collins' Carrying the fire. Would rate 5 stars.
Published 9 months ago by gggubbins
4.0 out of 5 stars A great read
As an avid Apollo fan I was aware of the controversy surrounding Apollo 15 but like most people, only knew the official line on the matter. This is a book that had to be written.
Published 11 months ago by Josephine Coates
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful
Really enjoyed this. These guys are legends and this makes a great read. I definitely recommend it for a view on the whole programme
Published 14 months ago by Mr. Penguin
5.0 out of 5 stars Left me wanting more....
I recently had the opportunity to meet Al Worden who personalized a dedication and signature for me, so my opinion of this book and author may be biased :)

But that... Read more
Published 14 months ago by Paul L.
5.0 out of 5 stars It's so different
I have read many books on this subject, but this book is so different, the author has a nack of explaining those little things what other authors don't; it is these little things... Read more
Published 18 months ago by R. Suitters
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the better astronaut auto-biographies
NASA of the 60's and 70's was a political and unforgiving environment to work in, and Al Worden was one of several Astronauts to come unstuck. Read more
Published 21 months ago by Donald Swatman
5.0 out of 5 stars A compelling astronaut memoir
I have read many of the Apollo astronaut memoirs, and this is one of the best. After the fairly typical (but still interesting) first few chapters on Al Worden's early life in the... Read more
Published 22 months ago by JRF
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