Alan Bean, astonaut and artist - obituary

Gwen Vasquez
May 29, 2018

Alan Bean, a NASA astronaut who journeyed into space two times and, as part of the Apollo 12 mission in 1969, became the fourth man to walk on the moon, died at the age of 86 at a hospital in Houston, the United States space agency announced.

In a statement, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine described Mr Bean as a "boundary pusher".

Bean is survived with his wife Leslie, 40, a sister Paula Stott, and two children from prior marriage, a daughter Amy Sue and son Clay. Bean, 86, died on Saturday, May 26, 2018 at Houston Methodist Hospital in Houston. He made his first voyage into space on November 14, 1969, four months after the historic first landing on the moon of Apollo 11, commanded by Neil Armstrong.

Bean was widely respected as a pilot and astronaut but was equally known as a space-themed artist. But it wasn't until Apollo 12 that he flew in space.

"I'd always wanted to be a pilot, ever since I could remember", said Bean in the 1998 NASA oral history. During his entire career with NASA, Bean logged over 69 total days in space and 31 hours on the moon's surface.

In 1973, Bean commanded the Skylab 3 mission, the second manned mission to the first U.S. space station. During the then-record-setting 59-day, 24.4 million-mile flight, Bean and his two crewmates generated 18 miles of computer tape during surveys of Earth's resources and 76,000 photographs of the Sun to help scientists better understand its effects on the solar system. Later, he was in line to fly the first shuttle flights. He even worked with "Star Trek" actress Nichelle Nichols on outreach efforts to prospective astronauts.

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A statement released by NASA and family members says Bean died Saturday in Houston after a short illness.

He retired from the Navy in 1975 but remained with NASA for another six years, overseeing the training of astronauts.

When Bean, a former Navy test pilot, left NASA in 1981, he drew on a long-standing interest in painting to become a full-time artist, creating images of the era when science fiction shifted into reality. "About half the astronauts thought it was a midlife crisis or something".

A decade later, Bean told me that his brain must have been wired differently from the norm for astronauts. His first comment: 'Can you earn a living at that?'.

"Alan Bean is one of the great renaissance men of his generation - engineer, fighter pilot, astronaut and artist". "You can't tell how far away things are because there's no atmosphere to bounce the light around".

Born March 15, 1932 in Wheeler, Texas the future moonwalker earned a degree in aeronautical engineering from the University of Texas in 1955.

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