"Falling to Earth" meets "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood"

Revisit Al Worden's appearances with Fred Rogers after 40 years


From “Falling to Earth” pages 151 and 152

NASA was leery of letting little children witness live launches and imposed age restrictions. This limitation may have protected them, but it also missed an opportunity to engage them. I knew a Saturn V launch was a pretty astounding experience, and children grasped the excitement of flying to the moon in ways that adults did not. If we wanted public support for NASA and space travel, we need to inspire and inform the kids.

…We still needed kids. So I immediately called Pittsburgh and [the] children’s show, Mister Rogers' Neighborhood. The producer put me right through to Fred Rogers, the show's much loved host. We chatted for a few minutes, I explained my idea, and he replied that it fit perfectly with a series he was filming about parents going away. He wanted to teach children about fathers leaving the house to go down to the store, leaving in the morning to go to work, or going on a trip. This was a perfect match, he told me – Dad is going to the moon for two weeks. As a father, I could relate. Fred proposed filming a show before and after the trip. A great idea, I agreed.

Three days before I began my pre-launch quarantine period, the film crew arrived at the Cape. They filmed Fred and me talking about space in the launch control center, then I showed him how to put on a space suit and how each part worked. Fred worked through a long list of kids’ questions about astronaut experiences. I would answer many of them, but I had to confess that I couldn’t answer others until after the flight. I asked Fred to let me take the list into space. I would think about them during the flight, I promised, and then answer when I returned. Fred liked this idea. In fact, instead of making two regular shows out of the footage, we would now do a special.

I worked on a number of follow-up shows with Fred, and we really hit on what kids wanted to know. For example, kids were fascinated by space food, so I took some to the show to reconstitute, and Fred and I ate it right there on the air. I took a large moon rock to another taping so the kids could look at it. Those shows did a lot of good, bringing a human element into spaceflight. Many of the ideas evolved into a children’s book that I wrote in 1974, named I Want to Know about a Flight to the Moon. Fred wrote the foreword.

But I did get some good natured ribbing at the Cape. A few days before the flight, in quarantine, we heard an announcement over the PA system: “Everyone to the TV set.” Sure enough, it was the Mister Rogers special. It was so outside of what most astronauts did, many thought I was crazy. Astronauts liked to think they were superjocks who hunted, fished, drank, and chased girls. We didn’t do kiddies' shows. They particularly made fun of me when I carefully navigated the inevitable “How do you go to the bathroom in space?” question. But I loved the final result, and Deke got a good laugh out of watching it. Most importantly, kids loved it.

Rare Video Clips:

Al Worden and Mister Rogers in the Launch Control Center
Al Worden and Mister Rogers demonstrate the Apollo Space Suit
Al Worden and Mister Rogers talk about space food and items flown in space
Al Worden and Mister Rogers talk about the back side of the moon and flying alone for three days


We would like to send our special thanks to the Fred Rogers Company, especially Brittany Smith, for making these video clips, unseen in 40 years, possible for reproduction on this web site.

While "Mister Rogers Meets an Astronaut" is not yet available on DVD, we encourage you to seek out the published episodes available through The Fred Rogers Company web site the PBS Kids Mister Rogers Neighborhood site and on online book stores such as Amazon.Com

All video and audio clips are Copyright The Fred Rogers Company and are reprinted with the express written consent of The Fred Rogers Company for use on this web site only.

Video clips are copyright © 1971/1972 The Fred Rogers Company, Redistribution, reproduction or reuploading of any kind is prohibited and will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

The Video clips and theme music that are featured on  this web site are courtesy of the Fred Rogers Company and used with the express written permission of the Fred Rogers Company to be used on this web site only.


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Copyright © 2005-2020 WOWIE Web Design All Rights Reserved
No part of this web site can be reproduced, retransmitted or reprinted
without the express written consent of the webmaster.