Apollo Moonwalker and artist Alan Bean dies at 86

  • Apollo Moonwalker and artist Alan Bean dies at 86

Apollo Moonwalker and artist Alan Bean dies at 86

Alan Bean the fourth astronaut to walk on the moon before becoming a painter died Saturday at the age of 86 in Texas.

Astronout Alan Bean died Saturday after becoming ill two weeks earlier, NASA announced Saturday.

In November 1969, he was the lunar module pilot on Apollo 12, the second Apollo mission to successfully land on the moon.

Bean also commanded the second crewed flight to the first United States space station Skylab in July 1973.

On that mission, he lived and worked on board the Skylab, orbiting the Earth for 59 days, traveling 24.4million miles.

"In total, Bean logged 69 days, 15 hours and 45 minutes in space", the obituary said, "including 31 hours and 31 minutes on the moon's surface". His wife of 40 years, Leslie Bean, said in the statement that, "Alan was the strongest and kindest man I ever knew".

The three astronauts who preceded Alan Bean to the moon's surface were Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on Apollo 11 in July 1969, and Charles Conrad who was also on the Apollo 12 mission.

Bean was born in Wheeler, Texas, in 1932 and educated at the University of Texas - graduating in 1955.

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

Bean's passing means only four of the 12 Apollo moonwalkers are still alive, with a string of lunar landing anniversaries due to begin next year.

Bean was a US Navy test pilot prior to being picked by NASA as an astronaut in 1963.

Walt Cunningham, who flew on Apollo 7 and called Bean his best friend of 55 years, said "we are accustomed to losing friends in our business but this is a tough one".

In the four decades before he died, he spent his time making Apollo-themed paintings featured canvases textured with lunar boot prints, made using acrylics embedded with small pieces of his moon dust-stained mission patches. "He was a great man and this is a great loss", said astronaut Mike Massimino, who flew on two space shuttle missions to service the Hubble Space Telescope.

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