Astronaut and moonwalker Alan Bean dies at 86

Former Apollo 12 astronaut and painter Alan Bean, who was the fourth person to walk on the moon and later turned his passion for space into art, has died. He was 86.

Bean was the lunar module pilot for the second moon landing mission in November 1969. He spent 31 hours on the moon deploying surface experiments with commander Charles Conrad and collecting 75 pounds (34 kilograms) of rocks and lunar soil for study back on Earth, according to a statement from NASA.

Bean died Saturday in Houston, Texas, following a short illness, the statement said.

Bean is the eighth of 12 Apollo moonwalkers to die and the second this year, after the passing of Apollo 16 commander John Young in January.

“As all great explorers are, Alan was a boundary pusher,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said in a statement that credited Bean with being part of 11 world records in the areas of space and aeronautics. “We will remember him fondly as the great explorer who reached out to embrace the universe.”

In 1998 NASA oral history, Bean recalled his excitement at preparing to fly to the moon.

“When you’re getting ready to go to the moon, every day’s like Christmas and your birthday rolled into one. I mean, can you think of anything better?” Bean said.

After Apollo, Bean commanded the second crewed flight to the United States’ first space station, Skylab, in 1973. On that mission, he orbited the Earth for 59 days and traveled 24.4 million miles, setting a world record at the time.

Born March 15, 1932, in Wheeler, Texas, Bean received a Bachelor of Science degree in aeronautical engineering from the University of Texas in 1955. He attended the Navy Test Pilot School and was one of 14 trainees selected by NASA for its third group of astronauts in October 1963.

“I’d always wanted to be a pilot, ever since I could remember,” Bean said in 1998 NASA oral history. “I think a lot of it just had to do with it looked exciting. It looked like brave people did that. I wanted to be brave, even though I wasn’t brave at the time. I thought maybe I could learn to be, so that appealed to me.”

Bean retired from NASA in 1981 and devoted much of his time to creating an artistic record of space exploration.

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

“Alan Bean was the most extraordinary person I ever met,” astronaut Mike Massimino, who flew on two space shuttle missions to service the Hubble Space Telescope, said in a statement. “He was a one-of-a-kind combination of technical achievement as an astronaut and artistic achievement as a painter.”

His wife of 40 years, Leslie Bean, said in a statement that Bean died peacefully surrounded by those who loved him.

“Alan was the strongest and kindest man I ever knew,” she said. “He was the love of my life and I miss him dearly.”

He is survived by his wife, a sister and two children.

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Associated Press Science Writer Seth Borenstein contributed to this article.

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