Apollo 12 astronaut Alan Bean dead at 86

Doug Carpenter
May 29, 2018

Bean, the Apollo and Skylab astronaut, fourth human to walk on the moon and an accomplished artist, has died.

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 U.S. space station Skylab in 1973.

His wife of 40 years, Leslie Bean, said in the statement that, "Alan was the strongest and kindest man I ever knew".

Bean began his career as a test pilot in the U.S. Navy and in October 1963 became one of 14 trainees selected by NASA for its third group of astronauts. He and two astronauts, Jack Lousma and Owen Garriott, stayed aloft for 59 days, conducting a variety of biological experiments to test the body's ability to endure the physical and psychological demands of prolonged space flight.


After retiring from the Navy in 1975 and NASA in 1981, respectively, Bean became an artist and focused his energy on painting artistic impressions of the moon landing. His paintings have been exhibited at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington and have sold to collectors for well in excess of $100,000.

In his 1998 book, Apollo, Bean discussed his inspirations and goals as a painter by writing, "You know, people romanticize the moon".

Bean served as lunar module pilot on Apollo 12. 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.

In all, Bean logged 1671 hours and 45 minutes in space.


Born March 15, 1932, in Wheeler, Texas, Bean received a Bachelor of Science degree in aeronautical engineering from the University of Texas in 1955. They also checked up on Surveyor 3, which had landed two years earlier. All were promoted by President Nixon to the rank of captain.

FILE PHOTO: Astronaut Alan L. Bean holds a Special Environmental Sample Container filled with lunar soil collected during the Apollo 12 mission in this NASA handout photo provided November 19, 1969.

He is survived by his wife, a sister and two children from a prior marriage, a daughter Amy Sue and son, Clay. The paintings sometimes included footprints from a molding of the boots he wore on the moon along with pieces of his spacesuit patches and a sprinkling of their moondust residue. "You can't tell how far away things are because there's no atmosphere to bounce the light around".

"I said, 'I'm going to be an artist, '" Bean recalled.


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