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Amazing Journey Through Space and Life,
This review is from: Falling to Earth: An Apollo 15 Astronaut's Journey to Earth (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. 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.