Alan Bean, moon-walking astronaut and artist, dies aged 86

USA astronaut Alan Bean, the fourth person to walk on the moon, has died, his family announced in a statement released by NASA.

Bean, 86, died on Saturday, May 26, at Houston Methodist Hospital in Houston, Texas.

He became the fourth human to walk on the moon during the Apollo 12 mission in November 1969, exploring Oceanus Procellarum alongside the late astronaut Pete Conrad.

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. "I'd say 60 percent of them thought maybe I was having a midlife crisis", Mr. Bean recalled in his book "Apollo" (1998), written with Andrew Chaikin, in which he reproduced many of his paintings.

His Apollo-themed paintings feature canvases textured with lunar boot prints and embedded with small pieces of his moon dust-stained mission patches.

Bean was born on March 15, 1932, in Wheeler, Texas, and grew up in Fort Worth.

Bean spent a total of 69 days in space, including 31 hours on the moon.

Bean's favorite theme was to depict astronauts in flight or on the lunar surface.

"Alan was the strongest and kindest man I ever knew".

He was one of 14 people chosen by NASA for astronaut training in October 1963.

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

"I think a lot of it just had to do with it looked exciting".

"He was a one-of-a-kind combination of technical achievement as an astronaut and artistic achievement as a painter", said Massimino, who flew on two space shuttle missions. Mr. Bean and Conrad made a pinpoint landing on terrain called the Ocean of Storms, having descended in their lunar module from the capsule being flown in orbit by a third astronaut, Richard Gordon.

"Sad day. Not only did we lose a spaceflight pioneer, 4th man to walk on the moon, but also an exceptional artist that brought his experience back to Earth to share with the world".

She wrote that he was her "hero" and she felt "fortunate to have met him". "He was the love of my life and I miss him dearly", Bean's widow, Leslie Bean, said in a statement.

Bean is survived by his wife Leslie; two children from a previous marriage, Amy Sue and Clay; and sister Paula Scott.

In 1994 Bean told The New York Times the otherworldly perspectives he got in space inspired him to devote the latter half of his life to art, to the surprise of many of his colleagues.

  • Joe Gonzales