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on 7 October 2011
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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on 2 August 2011
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. The tragedy of Apollo 15 is that it is mostly known for two things: not only widely regarded as the most successful of all the Apollo moonlanding missions, which amassed an amazing amount of data and results, but for the public chastisement and humiliation of the crew over some postal covers they innocently carried on board - something that had gone unquestioned and unchallenged in almost every previous U.S. human space mission. In Worden's case, he went from being acclaimed a hero of a massively successful space mission to a stunned and shunned innocent being virtually sacked by NASA and shunted off to a small office at the Ames Research Center. Those who knew Al Worden well know he was not one to take such unwarranted persecution lightly, and in this book he sets out in very concise prose the actions he took, and in dramatic fashion lays the blame squarely where he feels it belongs - even at the expense of questioning the actions (or lack of action) of his fellow crewmembers.

This is an unrelentingly good story, filled with heroics of the Right Stuff calibre, but also one which tells for the first, full time the iniquitous way in which NASA and the U.S. government treated three men who had done nothing more than fall into the trap of simply doing what other astronauts and crews had done before them. They were savaged in Congress and in the press of the day, and the covers issue today remains an unfair blight on an otherwise amazing flight to the moon and back.

Al Worden will obviously alienate some people with whom he worked and flew in this revealing, hard-hitting book, but he will also make a host of new friends and allies as readers follow him on this most incredible journey through life and into space, and the aftermath of a notorious, unwarranted scandal that brought his otherwise-spotless career and reputation to an abrupt halt.

As one would expect of the eloquent Al Worden, this is a first-rate book. He and Francis French have masterfully put together an absorbing, true-life tale that will be read and appreciated by many. Despite my own meagre participatiuon in this book, I regard it as a new classic of the space age.
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on 15 October 2011
"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. As their numbers dwindle and they age the astonishing achievements and sheer magic of that adventure is fading from living memory. Books like this not only introduce a new generation to one of humanity's greatest adventures, but make a critical contribution to the collective record of that exceptional era by those who made it happen.
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VINE VOICEon 6 August 2011
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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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 18 September 2012
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 1930s, and then his military career, it goes into much more detail about the mechanics of space flight. For example, how as Apollo 15 command module pilot he learned to take sightings with a sextant on a thin layer of the earth's atmosphere (identified by a particular tint), which ensured the sightings would be very accurate. Also, how he could use small thrusters to adjust the trajectory of the command module re-entering the earth's atmosphere, to ensure a precise splashdown. This and many similar descriptions give the reader a real sense of what it must have been like to make the momentous journey to the moon. It's interesting to note that the other highly recommendable Apollo memoir, Carrying the Fire by Michael Collins, was also written by a command module pilot.

The writing style is fluid and easy to read. In fact, I found the book quite hard to put down. The author does not hesitate to give his opinions of some fellow astronauts, and they are not always flattering.

The Apollo 15 mission was overshadowed by the infamous "stamp scandal", and the book pulls no punches on its devastating effect. How (after many years) the author eventually restored his reputation is as impressive a tale as that of his epic and highly successful moon voyage.
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on 15 January 2013
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 what make a difference to poeple like us, who can't go to the moon.
Waht the author say's about deak, is also very interesting. What the author say's at the end of the book is a real shocke; can't say what, will spoil the book for you.
Purchase and enjoy.
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on 7 May 2013
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 said, this is a very honest account of a very difficult time for the author, it's a clear account of the moon landing events and his fall from hero worship and more importantly how Al Worden is once again considered a hero.

He does not bloat the book with accounts of his business adventures after leaving the Apollo programme like some other authors. But if anything that is the only shortcoming of this book, I would love to have known more about how the author was received in the business world.

A wonderful account of a challenging adventure!
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on 28 October 2012
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. Finally he has told the story about his fall and rise in a very honest and candid way. He stands up and takes the blame where it is warranted, (for example his first marriage), but there is a sense of being let down by those round him over the whole postal covers incident. He intentionally does not go on to talk about his later business career but does discuss the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation, a very important and worthy cause.

All in all, This is one of the better biographies, very readable, packed with detail and anecdotes.
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on 24 March 2014
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 moon, and this book goes into great detail about the Apollo 15 mission - one of the most ambitious space journeys ever attempted. Al clearly feels lasting shame about the postal covers 'scandal' that dogged his career. (Frankly I can't see what all the fuss was about.) It's a shame the Apollo program was scaled back later on due to funding issues - this book gives you the clear feeling that NASA could have achieved many more great things if it hadn't been.
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on 11 September 2015
Worden doesn't come across particularly well in this book in my view. It's an honest account and that is a plus point, but compared with biographies and stories of other astronauts such as Micheal Collins I have to say that Worden comes across as rather arrogant and ungrateful. He had a great career, he had a hell of a good time being paid well to follow his dreams, and in the middle of that he broke the rules and he knew that at the time, he got caught and hung up for it. And he managed to land a good job after that and carry on OK. So really he's a very, very lucky man but my impression from the book is that he's still a bit bitter.
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