NASA Astronaut Alfred “Al” Worden, command module pilot for Apollo 15 and one of the few to have orbited the moon, died Tuesday night, reports News 6 partner Florida Today.
In a statement on Worden's Twitter page, his family confirmed that the 88-year-old retired astronaut and Air Force colonel died in his sleep.
Worden was one of only 24 people to have flown to the moon. He was also the first astronaut to conduct a deep-space extravehicular activity, or EVA, during Apollo 15's return to Earth in 1971.
During Apollo 15, he orbited the moon dozens of times astronauts David Scott and James Irwin explored the surface.
Worden was selected by NASA for the astronaut corps in 1966. Before joining the agency, he attended the U.S. Military Academy West Point and went on to fly thousands of hours in Air Force aircraft.
NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine released a statement Wednesday on Worden’s passing:
"NASA sends its condolences to the family and loved ones of Apollo astronaut Al Worden, an astronaut whose achievements in space and on Earth will not be forgotten.
“A Colonel in the U.S. Air Force, Worden was a test pilot and instructor before joining NASA as an astronaut in 1966. He flew to the Moon as command module pilot aboard Apollo 15. During this time he earned a world record as “most isolated human being" while his crew mates roamed the lunar surface, and he was 2,235 miles away from anyone else.
“Later in his career, Worden became Senior Aerospace Scientist at NASA’s Ames Research Center in California. His multiple appearances on the children’s show Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood surely fueled the desire of many children to pursue careers along the lines of his and become future exploration leaders.
“Of his mission Worden said, ‘Now I know why I'm here. Not for a closer look at the Moon, but to look back at our home, the Earth.’
“We remember this pioneer whose work expanded our horizons.”