NASA Astronaut Alan Bean dies at 86

29 May, 2018, 16:31 | Author: Harriet Bell
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After Apollo, Bean commanded the second Skylab mission in 1973 - orbiting the Earth for 59 days.

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

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

"When Alan's third career as the artist of Apollo moved forward, he would call me to ask about some detail about lunar soil, color or equipment he wanted to have represented exactly in a painting".

His decision in 1981 to give up his NASA career to become a full-time artist surprised some of his colleagues. In 1963, he was selected to join NASA's third group of astronauts. "I thought maybe I could learn to be, so that appealed to me".

Bean was widely respected as a pilot and astronaut but was equally known as a space-themed artist.

In 1973, Bean commanded the Skylab 3 mission, the second manned mission to the first United States space station. "In the realm of the arts, it has fallen upon Alan Bean to be the one moonwalker to turn hard data brought back from the moon into something other than numbered photographs". For 31 hours, Bean collected lunar samples and teamed up with mission commander Pete Conrad, as they conducted science experiments and visited the Surveyor 3 lander, an unmanned spacecraft that was launched to the moon in 1967. He flew into space on his first mission in 1969 aboard the Apollo 12 on NASA's second moon landing.

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With his passing, only four of the twelve men who have walked on the moon are still alive - Buzz Aldrin, Dave Scott, Charlie Duke and Harrison Schmitt.

"When I became head of the Skylab Branch of the Astronaut Office, we worked together and Alan eventually commanded the second Skylab mission".

He said: "I think a lot of it just had to do with it looked exciting". Some of his pieces even integrated moon dust, lunar boot prints and his mission patches.

He received a Bachelor of Aeronautical Engineering from the University of Texas in 1955. "He was a one of a kind combination of technical achievement as an astronaut and artistic achievement as a painter".

In 1994 Bean told The New York Times the otherworldly perspectives he got in space inspired him to devote the latter half of his life to art, to the surprise of many of his colleagues.

In addition to his wife, Leslie, Alan Bean is survived by a sister, Paula Stott; and two children from a previous marriage, Amy Sue Bean and Clay Bean.

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