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Apollo Mission Scandal

Date: 08-13-11
Host: Ian Punnett
Guests: Al Worden, Howard E. Wasdin

Ian Punnett welcomed Apollo 15 command module pilot Al Worden, who discussed his career in spaceflight and how he went from honored national hero to being drummed out of the NASA Astronaut Corps. Worden briefly spoke about his time as a test pilot in England and instructor at Edwards Air Force Base, before he was selected with 18 others for the Apollo program. There was little camaraderie among his crew, he recalled, noting that the Apollo 15 mission is widely regarded as the most successful flight nonetheless. Worden described the days he spent alone in the command module orbiting the moon, working 20-hour shifts measuring various aspects of the lunar surface. After returning home, Worden said he was invited to the White House to meet with President Nixon and then sent out as an envoy to other nations.

Worden's astronaut glory days, however, were short-lived. The Apollo 15 crew had taken commemorative postal covers to the moon and, after returning to Earth, sent a batch of them to a German stamp dealer to sell to raise money for their kids' college accounts. According to Worden, it was a common practice among astronauts to carry various artifacts with them into space that could later be sold for additional income, as they did not make much money in those days. Unfortunately for Worden and the crew, several hundred postal covers had not been listed on the manifest and were, therefore, never authorized to go with them to the moon. NASA under pressure from Senate Space Committee decided to make an example of them and the Apollo 15 crew lost their spaceflight jobs, he explained.

Fallen Navy SEALs

In the first half-hour, author Howard Wasdin (book link) reacted to the deadly helicopter incident that cost the lives of 22 Navy SEALs. "All death is terrible, but when you have this magnitude of death with these elite guys, it's just something that's going to take years to heal," he said. Wasdin addressed the conspiratorial notion that the SEAL's Chinook helicopter could not have been brought down by a simple RPG (rocket-propelled grenade). An RPG strike to the right spot, such as the main rotor blades, can easily bring down a helicopter, he explained, noting his own experience seeing Black Hawks go down in Mogadishu, Somalia. Wasdin also urged those interested in helping the spouses and children of the fallen SEALs to make a donation to the Special Operations Warrior Foundation.

Related Material

Apollo 15 Postal Cover Images
Apollo 15 Postal Cover Images
Pictured is a commemorative postal cover from Apollo 15, which got Al Worden (and his crew) in a lot of trouble. View more images here.

Bumper Music

Bumper music from Saturday August 13, 2011

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