Astronaut Alan Bean, a member of Nasa’s Apollo 12 mission, died May 26 at the age of 86.
Bean was lunar module pilot on the November 1969 Apollo 12 mission, the second moon landing and he was the fourth person to walk on the lunar surface. He and mission commander Pete Conrad explored on the lunar Ocean of Storms and set up several experiments powered by a small nuclear generator.
He also commanded the second Skylab crew, and then resigned from NASA after 18 years as an astronaut to paint the remarkable worlds and sights he had seen.
As spacecraft commander of the Skylab II mission II, from July 19 to Sept. 25, 1973, Bean and fellow crewmembers Owen K. Garriott and Jack R. Lousma accomplished half again as much as pre-mission goals. Their 59-day, 24.4-million-mile flight was a world record.
“As all great explorers are, Alan was a boundary pusher,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said in a statement. “Rather than accepting the limits of technology, science, and even imagination, he sought to advance those lines — in all his life’s endeavors.
In an interview for NASA’s 50th anniversary in 2008, Bean said walking on the moon was one of the most fun things he had done.
“At one-sixth gravity in that suit, you have to move in a different way,” he said. “One of the paintings that I did was called ‘Tip Toeing on The Ocean of Storms.’ And it shows that I’m up on my tip toes as I’m moving around. And we did that a lot. On Earth, I weighed 150 pounds; my suit and backpack weighed another 150. 300 pounds. Up there, I weighed only 50. So I could prance around on my toes. It was quite easy to do. And if you remember back to some of the television we saw, Buzz and Neil on the Moon with Apollo 11. Black and white. They were bouncing around a lot. They were really bouncing on their tip toes. Quite fun to do. Someday maybe be a great place for a vacation.”
Alan L. Bean was born in Wheeler, Texas. He graduated from Paschal High School in Fort Worth, Texas. In 1955, Bean was awarded an aeronautical engineering degree from the University of Texas.
He was a Navy ROTC student there and was commissioned when he graduated. After he finished flight training, he spent four years with a jet attack squadron and then attended Navy test pilot school.
Bean flew as a test pilot on several types of aircraft before he was selected with the third group of NASA astronauts in October 1963. He served as a backup for crewmembers on Gemini 10 and Apollo 9.
After his Apollo and Skylab flights, Bean remained with NASA while many of his astronaut colleagues went elsewhere as the Apollo program wound down. He served as a backup spacecraft commander for the last Apollo flight, the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project in July 1975.
He retired from the Navy as a captain in October 1975 but continued to work with NASA as a civilian. He headed the Astronaut Office’s Astronaut Candidate Operations and Training Group at Johnson Space Center.
Bean logged 1,672 hours in space, including more than 10 hours of spacewalks on the moon and in Earth orbit. He flew 27 aircraft types and accumulated more than 7,145 hours of flight time, 4,890 hours of it in jets.
During his career he established 11 records in space and aeronautics, and received many awards and honors.
Among those awards were two NASA distinguished service medals, two Navy Distinguished Service Medals, the Rear Admiral William S. Parsons Award for Scientific and Technical Progress, the Robert J. Collier Trophy, the Federation Aeronautique Internationale’s Yuri Gagarin Gold Medal, the V.M. Komarov diploma, the Robert H. Patuxent River Goddard Gold Medal, the AIAA Octave Chanute Award and the ASA Flight Achievement Award.
His decision to retire from NASA to devote full time to painting was, he said, based on his 18 years as an astronaut, during which he visited places and saw things no artist’s eye had ever seen firsthand. He said he hoped to capture those experiences through his art.
He followed that dream for many years at his home studio in Houston, with considerable success. His paintings were particularly popular among space enthusiasts.