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As we saw in Buzz Aldrin's 1973 memoir Return to Earth and Worden's Falling to Earth, the pressures were a lot even for the astronauts who flew. Al Worden would become the victim of a newspaper article himself in 1972, months after returning from the super-successful Apollo 15 lunar mission. The Houston Chronicle would publish a damning front-page article dissecting the stamp scandal that tainted the crew's reputations, and the newspaper even put a black border around the crew's photos. Worden never forgot the calumny, and discusses the aftermath of that terrible time in The Light of Earth.
While Worden was "allowed" to stay at NASA – sent to a sort of exile at NASA Ames, far away from Houston, Astronaut Central — he was well aware he, in his words, "was really just riding out the storm there." In 1975, he left NASA and the U.S. Air Force "knowing I did not want to go work for a big company. As a matter of fact, feeling kind of tainted from the end of my NASA career, I wasn't sure any big company would want me on board anyway. So I never really tried." Worden did perhaps one of the most un-astronaut things someone could do in 1975: he took the show on the road. "...I loaded all my belongings into a motor home and hitched my sports car to the back of it. I headed east and went back to school. Living in a motor home in winter is cold, but I made it work. Life wasn't going to keep me down for long." Worden traded his flight suits for bell bottoms and longer hair, and thus began his bohemian years in California. We also find out that while Worden was not a big fan of the space shuttle's design, if he'd been given the chance, he still would have been glad to fly it during the 1980s.
Life didn't keep Worden down for long. Worden would start a string of successful businesses, and his later years found him having one of the most spectacular public returns to the spotlight perhaps of any Apollo-era astronaut, after the publication of the validating Falling to Earth.
The Light of Earth shows an Al Worden who had made peace with his tumultuous past, and was optimistically looking forward to the future, until his life was cut short in March 2020 at age 88 (note: despite his age, he wasn't done yet... not even close).
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