Moonwalker and space artist Alan Bean dies

27 May 2018, 08:07

Apollo 12 astronaut Alan Bean, who walked on the moon and then built a career out of painting it, has died aged 86.

Mr Bean, the fourth person to walk on the moon, died in Houston two weeks after falling ill, his family said.

In November 1969, he was the lunar module pilot for the second moon landing mission and completed two moonwalks.

He spent 31 hours on the moon and collected 34kg of rocks and lunar soil to be studied back on Earth.

Mr Bean's death means that only four of the 12 Apollo moonwalkers are still alive - Buzz Aldrin, Dave Scott, Charlie Duke and Harrison Schmitt.

In a statement, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine described Mr Bean as a "boundary pusher".

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

Mr Schmitt, a lunar module pilot for Apollo 17, said the specimens Mr Bean brought back to Earth were "a scientific gift that keeps on giving today and in the future".

"His enthusiasm about space and art never waned.

"Alan Bean is one of the great renaissance men of his generation - engineer, fighter pilot, astronaut and artist."

Back in 1998, Mr Bean described his preparation for the moon landing as "Christmas and your birthday rolled into one", adding: "I mean, can you think of anything better?"

In 1973, he commanded the second crewed flight to the first US space station, orbiting the Earth for 59 days and travelling 24.4 million miles - one of 11 world records he set in the fields of space and aeronautics.

He retired in 1981, beginning a career as a painter, creating Apollo-themed art.

Mr Bean was born in 1932 in Wheeler, Texas, receiving a Bachelor of Science in aeronautical engineering in 1955 and moving on to the Navy Test Pilot School.

He was one of 14 people chosen by NASA for astronaut training in October 1963.

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

He said: "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."

About the mission, he told People magazine in 1981: "I remember once looking back at Earth and starting to think, 'Gee, that's beautiful'.

"Then I said to myself, 'Quit screwing off and go collect rocks'.

"We figured reflection wasn't productive."

Mike Massimino, who flew on two space shuttle missions to service the Hubble Space Telescope, remembered Mr Bean as "extraordinary".

Retired astronaut Scott Kelly said on Twitter that the world had not only lost "a spaceflight pioneer... but also an exceptional artist that brought his experience back to Earth to share with the world."

Fellow astronaut Karen Nyberg described him as a kind, gracious and humble man.

She wrote that he was her "hero" and she felt "fortunate to have met him".

Mr Bean's wife Leslie remembered him as "the strongest and kindest man I ever knew," adding: "He was the love of my life and I miss him dearly".