Moonwalking astronaut-artist Alan Bean dies at 86


Alan Bean, the fourth man to walk on the moon and one of only 12 to have set foot there, died at 86 on Saturday, according to a statement on NASA's website. "He was the love of my life and I miss him dearly", Alan's wife Leslie, to whom he was married for 40 years, said in the statement. "A native Texans, Alan died peacefully in Houston surrounded by those who loved him". Two weeks earlier, he suddenly became ill while traveling in Fort Wayne, Indiana. He was one of 14 trainees selected by NASA for its third group of astronauts in October 1963.

Bean, who passed away at Houston Methodist after battling a short illness, was a lunar module pilot on Apollo 12 in 1969, the second manned flight to land on the moon. He became the fourth man - and one of only 12 in history - to walk on the moon.

In 1973, he commanded the second crewed flight to the first United States 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.

They spent about 7 hours and 45 minutes completing two moonwalks in which they deployed instruments to study the moon's geology, installed a nuclear generator to power future experimental equipment and collected an extensive assortment of moon rocks.

Bean became an accomplished artist after his retirement in 1981, painting scene from his space explorations.

According to NASA, Bean based that decision on his almost two decades of experience as an astronaut "during which he visited places and saw things no artist's eye had ever seen firsthand". "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".

Alan Bean on the moon
Bean there done that. NASA

He served as backup astronaut for the Gemini 10 and Apollo 9 missions.

"Alan was the strongest and kindest man I ever knew". His trips to space prompted his surprise turn of career. He was fascinated by model planes as a youngster and received a bachelor's degree in aeronautical engineering in 1955 from the University of Texas.

"I think I would like to be remembered in the end as an astronaut and an artist", Bean told People.

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

He said: "I think a lot of it just had to do with it looked exciting".

Bean is survived by his wife, sister and two children from a prior marriage.