Astronaut and moonwalker Alan Bean dies at 86

Muriel Hammond
May 28, 2018

In 1973, Bean commanded the Skylab 3 mission, the second manned mission to the first U.S. space station. He attended the Navy Test Pilot school and accumulated more than 5,000 hours of flying time in 27 different types of aircraft.

They were busy, but, as Bean recalled during a 2016 NPR interview, "as I ran along, I remember. saying to myself, 'You know, this is really the moon".

She said that Bean, a native Texan, died peacefully while surrounded by his loved ones.

Bean, who was an Apollo 12 astronaut, was one of 12 men to walk on the moon, and his death comes only four months after fellow moon-walker John Young died. His wife of 40 years, Leslie Bean, said in the statement that, "Alan was the strongest and kindest man I ever knew".

Alan Bean spent 69 days, 15 hours and 45 minutes in space prior to his retirement in 1981.

"I'd always wanted to be a pilot, ever since I could remember", Bean said in the 1998 NASA oral history. Six years later, he piloted the lunar module for the Apollo 12 mission and followed Pete Conrad onto the surface of the moon.


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

"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.

"I just say it how I think it, even though other people will say, 'That's weird, ' because it's from the other side of the brain", he said. "He was a one of a kind combination of technical achievement as an astronaut and artistic achievement as a painter". He, along with two other astronauts spent 59 days in space for the mission setting a then record. His paintings, inspired by space travel, featured lunar boot prints as well as small pieces of his mission patches which were stained by Moon dust.

"A lot of things I think about come from the right side of my brain", he said in 2007.

He leaves his second wife, Leslie, a son, Clay, and a daughter, Amy Sue, from his marriage to his first wife, Sue.

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. I am so grateful he was my mentor and friend, and I will miss him terribly.

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