Alan Bean, 4th person to walk on the moon, dead at 86

Apollo 12 astronaut Alan Bean

Bean died at the Houston Methodist Hospital after becoming sick two weeks ago, according to a statement from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

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

He twice ventured into space, originally in 1969 on the Apollo 12 moon landing mission, and later as commander of the second crew to fly to the first United States space station Skylab in 1973. Eventually, Bean and Conrad spent more than 31 hours on the moon's surface, including more than seven hours working outside of the lunar module.

Retired U.S. astronaut Scott Kelly said the world had not only lost "a spaceflight pioneer. but also an exceptional artist that brought his experience back to Earth to share with the world". Shortly after takeoff, the rocket was hit by lightning but the crew was able to continue the scheduled flight to the Moon.

Alan Bean spent 69 days, 15 hours and 45 minutes in space prior to his retirement in 1981. On that mission, he orbited the Earth for 59 days and traveled 24.4 million miles, setting a world record at the time.

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Bean's second mission in 1973 was to America's first space station, Skylab. He even worked with "Star Trek" actress Nichelle Nichols on outreach efforts to prospective astronauts.

Alan LaVern Bean was born on March 15, 1932, in Wheeler, Texas, and grew up in Fort Worth. After leaving NASA, the former astronaut devoted himself to painting. "My boss asked if I could make a living off art, and I said I didn't know, but I had to find out".

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. His paintings sold for tens of thousands of dollars apiece. Armstrong once said, "Alan Bean and his "astroartistry" recreate the drama and excitement of man's exploration of the moon as only could be chronicled by one who has been there". "I thought maybe I could learn to be, so that appealed to me". "I think everyone can do more than one thing with his life". He aspired to become a pilot and started flight training at age 17. After earning a degree in Aeronautical Engineering from the University of Texas Austin, he served in the U.S. Naval Reserve.

"We're saddened by the passing of astronaut Alan Bean".

Walt Cunningham, fellow astronaut who flew on Apollo 7, said the two have remained friends for 55 years.

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