NASA Astronaut Alan Bean dies at 86

Greg Lawrence
May 29, 2018

That "fantastic suite of lunar samples" is "a scientific gift that keeps on giving today and in the future", Harrison Schmitt, Apollo 17 lunar module pilot and the only geologist to walk on the moon, said in the statement.

In total, Bean logged 69 days, 15 hours and 45 minutes in space, including 31 hours and 31 minutes on the moon's surface.

A statement released by NASA and family members says Bean died Saturday in Houston after a short illness.

He added: "We will remember him fondly as the great explorer who reached out to embrace the universe".

In the aftermath of Alan Bean's death, only four of the NASA astronauts who walked on the moon between 1969 and 1972 are still living - Buzz Aldrin, Dave Scott, Charlie Duke, and Jack Schmitt. His enthusiasm about space and art never waned.

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

After Apollo, Bean commanded the second crewed flight to the United States' first space station, Skylab, in 1973.

His second foray outside of Earth's atmosphere saw Bean log a record-breaking 59-day, 24.4 million-mile flight (39.3 million kilometers).

Bean was born on March 15, 1932 in Wheeler, Texas.

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Mr Bean said in 1998 that he had wanted to be a pilot "ever since I could remember".

He later described how complex and risky the mission had been: "It was more science fiction to us, I think, than it was to the average public".

"It looked like courageous people did that".

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.

According to NPR, Bean's paintings didn't just look at NASA's manned moon missions with "painstaking detail", as he also used actual moon dust and ground-up Apollo spacecraft debris as materials for his paintings.

"Alan Bean was the most extraordinary person I ever met", astronaut Mike Massimino told NASA.

Four years later, Bean returned to space as commander of the second mission to the Skylab orbiting space station. "I was fortunate to be the first artist with the opportunity to be in the center of the action to capture what I saw and felt, and bring it back to earth to share with generations to come".

He obtained a commission in Navy aviation and after completing test-pilot school was selected by NASA as one of 14 new astronauts in October 1963. "Thank you for letting me stand upon your shoulders".

Bean died at Houston Methodist Hospital in Houston at the age of 86.

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