March 19 (UPI) -- Former astronaut Al Worden, who piloted the orbiting command module during the Apollo 15 moon landing in 1971, died Wednesday in Texas, NASA said. He was 88.
Worden, who began his career as a U.S. Air Force test pilot working for famed aviator Chuck Yeager, was best known for circling the moon alone between July 30 and Aug. 2, 1971, as fellow astronauts Dave Scott and Jim Irwin explored the lunar surface.
"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," said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine.
His lonely journey in orbit around the moon during the Apollo 15 mission earned him a world record as "most isolated human being" -- he was 2,235 miles away from anyone else at the time.
On the return to Earth, he conducted the first-ever spacewalk in deep space.
Worden, Scott and Irwin never flew again following the lunar mission after being reprimanded by NASA for a participating in an unauthorized plan to bring hundreds of postage stamp covers with them to the moon to be sold later to collectors.
Later in his career, Worden was a senior scientist at NASA's Ames Research Center in Mountain View, Calif., and an executive at BF Goodrich Aerospace in Brecksville, Ohio.
He also became familiar to a generation of young people though his appearances on the children's show Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood.
NASA said Worden was born in Jackson, Mich., and graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 1955. He earned master of science degrees in astronautical/aeronautical engineering and instrumentation engineering from the University of Michigan in 1963.
Worden was one of 19 astronauts selected by NASA in April 1966. He served as a member of the astronaut support crew for Apollo 9 and as backup command module pilot for Apollo 12 before making it into space in 1971.