by Alan Jacques
ASTRONAUT Alfred ‘Al’ Worden has been to the moon, but Lough Gur left such an impression on him after his visit last year that he is returning to the out-of-this-world County Limerick tourist spot next Monday, June 8.
Mr Worden is one of only 24 people who have rocketed to the moon. He was command module pilot for the Apollo 15 lunar mission in 1971. The Michigan native, now 83, performed the first deep-space EVA ( a spacewalk made outside a craft orbiting Earth) during Apollo 15’s homeward journey. In 2011, his memoir ‘Falling To Earth’ made the LA Times Bestseller list.
The astronaut was invited to visit Limerick in 2014 by science enthusiast and Lough Gur local Paul Ryan. Mr Worden was so impressed by his visit to Limerick last year that he is now making a return trip to the one place that he truly fell in love with – Lough Gur.
Since voluntary board members took over the lakeside heritage centre in 2011 under the management of Kate Harrold, the visitor attraction has reached the number one spot on TripAdvisor for places to visit in Limerick City and County.
On his tour of Lough Gur in 2014, Mr Worden was so visibly moved by the beauty and tranquillity of this sacred site that he agreed to become a patron of the organisation. Other Lough Gur Development patrons elected for the first time in 2015 include well known actor and Lough Gur man Jon Kenny, international referee and Lough Gur local George Clancy, acclaimed singer and author Dr Noirín Ni Riain, life-long expert on Lough Gur and senior archaeologist in UCC, Dr Rose Cleary, along with author and historian Michael Quinlan.
Next Monday all of the Lough Gur Development patrons will gather for the first time to mark their approach to positively develop, protect and promote the great and ancient site of Lough Gur. During his visit the famous astronaut will also make a presentation to awestruck students at Mainister National School.
Mr Worden will also receive an honorary membership from Ballyneety Golf Club before officially launching the Dark Sky Park initiative presented by the Shannonside Astronomy Club at Lough Gur Heritage Centre.