Published: Tue, May 29, 2018
Research | By Dana Schwartz

Astronaut and moonwalker Alan Bean dies at 86

Astronaut and moonwalker Alan Bean dies at 86

After Apollo 12, other notable missions for Bean included commanding a crew on board the Skylab orbital workshop.

A decade later, Bean told me that his brain must have been wired differently from the norm for astronauts.

"I remember once looking back at Earth and starting to think, 'Gee, that's lovely.' Then I said to myself, 'Quit screwing off and go collect rocks.' We figured reflection wasn't productive", Alan Bean was quoted as saying by People magazine in 1981.

His decision in 1981 to give up his NASA career to become a full-time artist surprised some of his colleagues.

Born in Texas in 1932, Bean graduated the University of Texas with a degree in aeronautical engineering in 1955 and went on to the Navy Test Pilot School. As NASA noted in its release, "He devoted his time to creating an artistic record of humanity's first exploration of another world".

Bean began his aviation career as a fighter pilot for the U.S. Navy before being selected to participate in the test flight program.

In this July 15, 2009 file photo, Apollo 12 astronaut Alan Bean walks through the largest exhibition of his artwork to date, inspired by his experience walking on the moon, to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the first Apollo moon landing, in Washington.

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"Alan and I have been best friends for 55 years - ever since the day we became astronauts", said Walt Cunningham, a Lunar Module Pilot on the Apollo 7 mission.

With his passing, only four of the twelve men who have walked on the moon are still alive - Buzz Aldrin, Dave Scott, Charlie Duke and Harrison Schmitt.

"Alan Bean was the most extraordinary person I ever met", astronaut Mike Massimino told NASA.

He said he thought about it often, "and when I look at the moon at night, [I] think about that pin up there, just as shiny as it ever was, and someday maybe somebody will go pick it up". His Apollo-themed paintings featured canvases textured with lunar boot prints and were made using acrylics embedded with small pieces of his moon dust-stained mission patches.

Astronaut Alan Bean and Leslie Bean attend the premiere of "In The Shadow Of The Moon" on September 5, 2007 at the Museum of Natural History in New York City.

Four years later, Bean returned to space as commander of the second mission to the Skylab orbiting space station.

He is survived by his wife, a sister and two children from a prior marriage, a daughter Amy Sue and son, Clay.

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