Alan L. Bean, 1932–2018
Alan LaVern Bean, the fourth human to walk on the Moon, and an accomplished artist, passed away on Saturday, May 26, at the age of 86.
A test pilot in the U.S. Navy, Bean was one of 14 trainees selected by NASA for its third group of astronauts in October 1963. He flew twice into space, first as the lunar module pilot on Apollo 12, the second Moon landing mission, in November 1969, and then as commander of the second crewed flight to the United States’ first space station, Skylab, in July 1973.
On November 19, 1969, Bean, with Apollo 12 commander Charles “Pete” Conrad, landed on the Ocean of Storms and became the fourth human to walk on the Moon. During two moonwalks, Bean helped deploy several surface experiments and installed the first nuclear-powered generator station on the Moon to provide the power source. He and Conrad inspected a robotic Surveyor spacecraft and collected 34 kilograms (75 pounds) of rocks and lunar soil for study back on Earth.
“Alan and Pete were extremely engaged in the planning for their exploration of the Surveyor III landing site in the Ocean of Storms and, particularly, in the enhanced field training activity that came with the success of Apollo 11. This commitment paid off with Alan’s and Pete’s collection of a fantastic suite of lunar samples, a scientific gift that keeps on giving today and in the future,” said Harrison Schmitt, Apollo 17 lunar module pilot and the only geologist to walk on the Moon. “Their description of bright green concentrations of olivine (peridot) as ‘ginger ale bottle glass,’ however, gave geologists in Mission Control all a big laugh, as we knew exactly what they had discovered.”
“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. Other times, he wanted to discuss items in the description he was writing to go with a painting. 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,” said Schmitt.
Four years after Apollo 12, Bean commanded the second crew to live and work onboard the Skylab orbital workshop. During the then-record-setting 59-day flight, Bean and his two crewmates generated 29 kilometers (18 miles) of computer tape during surveys of Earth’s resources and 76,000 photographs of the Sun to help scientists better understand its effects on the solar system.
In total, Bean logged 69 days, 15 hours, and 45 minutes in space, including 31 hours and 31 minutes on the Moon’s surface.
Bean retired from the Navy in 1975 and NASA in 1981. In the four decades since, he devoted his time to creating an artistic record of humanity’s first exploration of another world. His Apollo-themed paintings featured canvases textured with lunar bootprints and were made using acrylics embedded with small pieces of his Moon-dust-stained mission patches.