Alan Bean Dies at Age 86: The Astronaut that Walked on The Moon and Painted the Sky


Alan Bean was the fourth man to walk on the Moon and a former astronaut who later found his vocation by painting his memories from space. He died in Texas at 86 years old, according to his family’s statement.

Two weeks ago, he fell ill in Indiana and finally died peacefully at a hospital in Houston. Astronaut Mike Massimino said that Alan Bean was “the most extraordinary person I ever met.”

Massimino flew with Bean on two space shuttle missions and said about him that:

“He was a one-of-a-kind combination of technical achievement as an astronaut and artistic achievement as a painter.”

It All Started in 1963

Alan Bean was a US Navy test pilot when, in 1963, NASA selected him as a trainee. He then went into space on two missions. The first one was in November 1969, piloting the Apollo 12 mission, and landing on the Moon.

After his first experience, he described it as being “more science fiction to us, I think, than it was to the average public.”

They knew from the start how many things could go wrong:

“We knew how difficult it was. We knew how many things had to go right. This is like going half way across the Sahara Desert and stopping your car and getting out and camping out for a couple of days and then hoping when you start it up the battery works because if doesn’t you’re up creek.”

However, he got back home, and later in 1973; he was the commander of the second flight with a crew to Skylab, the first US space station.

In 1981 he retired from NASA and became an artist. He painted the space and boot prints on the moon, he painted his mission patches stained by Moon dust. He never really retired from being a space explorer. Robert Z Pearlman, space history specialist said:

“While he captured these great scenes from history, and scenes that never could be captured by a camera, and only in painting, he would also basically sprinkle them with moon dust. And so they are a tremendous legacy for not just him but the Apollo programme in general.”

Alan Bean was preceded by Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on Apollo 11 (July 1969). Charles Conrad was also on the Apollo 12 mission. Of these four astronauts, only Aldrin (88) is alive. Until now, only 24 people flew to the Moon and 12 have walked on it.


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