One of the few Americans to see the moon close up has died. Astronaut Al Worden, who flew around the moon as part of the Apollo 15 mission in 1971, died in his sleep, his family said Wednesday. He was 88. Worden was a U.S. Air Force colonel when he joined NASA in 1966, getting his chance to fly to the moon five years later. Worden circled the moon in the command module while fellow astronauts Jim Irwin and David Scott explored the surface.  The highlight of the mission for Worden was when he performed the first deep-space spacewalk 322,000 kilometers above the Earth, inspecting the spacecraft’s scientific instrument bay.  “Al was an American hero whose achievements in space and on Earth will never be forgotten,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said Wednesday.  Worden once described flying to the moon as like driving a car, only with some analytical ability.  He wrote two books about his moon mission, including one for children. Worden retired from NASA in 1975 and worked in the aerospace industry, but he never lost his enthusiasm for space.  In 2019, he told VOA’s Kane Farabaugh that he was “very optimistic” about the U.S. space program, saying whether it takes 100 years or 10,000 years, the U.S. will do all the things it wants to do in space.  

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