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Home / Science / Alan Bean, moonwalker, who has become an artist, dies at 86 – Spaceflight Now

Alan Bean, moonwalker, who has become an artist, dies at 86 – Spaceflight Now


Former astronaut Alan Bean at his art studio in Houston. Credit: Smithsonian Institution

Alan Bean, a Navy test pilot and astronaut who walked the moon and spent two months aboard America's first space station before leaving NASA to become an accomplished artist who painted lunar landscapes and space views who earned general praise died Saturday. He was 86 years old.

NASA confirmed Bean's death in a statement by his family and said the former astronaut died after a brief illness at Houston Methodist Hospital

"Alan was the strongest and friendliest man I've ever known," his wife Leslie Bean, said in the NASA statement. "He was the love of my life and I miss him very much … Alan died peacefully in Houston, surrounded by those who loved him."

Bean was one of only 12 men who walked the moon, two in each of six successful moon landing missions. He is survived by just four Moonwalkers: Buzz Aldrin, Apollo 11 lunar module pilot, Apollo 15 commander Dave Scott, Apollo 16 lunar module pilot Charlie Duke, and former US Senator Harrison Schmitt, Apollo 17 lunar module pilot, the last Apollo -Mondmission.

"I was fortunate enough to be the first artist to be at the heart of the action to capture what I saw and felt, and come to Earth to share with others," Bean wrote on his website.

"It is my dream that on the wings of my brush many people will see what I saw and felt what I felt on another world 240,000 miles away from my studio Planet Earth." I believe my pictures are beautiful It is art not from the distant past, but art of our time, art that we can understand, important art for us and our descendants because we were there when history was made. "

Andrew Chaikin , Author of "A Man on the Moon: The Travels of the Apollo Astronauts," said Bean was unique among NASA astronaut squad, an accomplished test pilot who also had the talent and confidence to rise from the pinnacle of an extremely successful technical career to pursue his art with the same purposeful devotion that led him to the moon. [19659004] "He was very enthusiastic about his art, devoting the entire post-NASA part of his life to painting and recording the Apollo missions as an artist," said Chaikin. "He was very successful, and people paid tens of thousands of dollars for his paintings."

Bean was also uniquely focused, painting custom-made paintings using bold colors – like red, white, and blue of the American flag. Face the bleak black-and-white environment of the moon.

Fans paid well for this vision. Bean's website recently listed paintings with price tags that ranged up to half a million dollars.

"What you need to understand about Alan Bean is that he's the only artist ever to walk on the Moon," wrote Tom Hanks on Bean's website. "No poet has ever been on the lunar surface, nor any journalist, architect, or songwriter." In the arts, Alan Bean has managed to be the only moonwalker to turn hard data brought back from the moon into something other than numbered photographs

"The paintings that Al has dedicated to the canvas are important, inspiring and priceless works of art. He not only painted the moon, he was there.

Alan Bean, Apollo-12 Lunar Module Pilot and Skylab Commander Credit: NASA

Chaikin said the key to Bean's success on Earth and outside of it was his focus and intensity. [19659004] "What you need to know about Alan is my God, he was simple-minded," Chaikin said. "He was the single-minded, hard-working guy I can imagine. He got up in the morning with his goal and he just did not let it go until it was done. And that meant teaching yourself to be a better artist. He was absolutely relentless in his quest to become a better artist. "

In an interview before the 20th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing in 1989, Bean recalled that he had tried to understand how Monet, one of his favorite artists, had captured the subtle lighting in a painting of a cathedral Bean flew to Europe, visited the church, and spent days, from morning to night, watching the light play over the structure.

"Alan wanted to understand what Monet actually saw and what he painted," Chaikin said, reminding to the story. "He went to the place and sat there at different times of the day. This is classic Alan. He was a perfectionist. "

Schmitt recalled phone calls from Bean" to ask for details about lunar soil, paint, or equipment he would have wanted to depict in a painting. At other times he wanted to discuss things in the description he was writing. "

" His enthusiasm for space and art never diminished, "said Schmitt in the NASA statement." Alan Bean was one of the great Renaissance men of his generation – Engineer, Fighter Pilot, Astronaut and Artist,

Born in Wheeler, Texas, on March 15, 1932, earned Bean a degree in aeronautical engineering before joining the Navy and eventually won a coveted task at the Naval Test Pilot School at Patuxent River, Md.

In 1963, he became NASA's third group of astronauts , along with Apollo 11 crew members Aldrin and Mike Collins, Scott and Apollo 17 selected Commander Eugene Cernan, the twelfth and last man who walked on the moon

After serving in reserve games for the Gemini 10 and Apollo 9 missions Bean is appointed lunar module pilot for Apollo 12, the second moon landing mission. Sitting on a gigantic Saturn 5 rocket, Bean and his crewmembers – Commander Pete Conrad and Richard Gordon – launched on November 14, 1969.

The rocket was launched in bad weather and 36 seconds after taking off, a lightning strike hit Saturn 5 followed 16 seconds later with a second blow and devastated the on-board electronics. To call a scary moment would be an understatement.

"What the hell was that?" Gordon asked as warning lights flashed in the cockpit. "I've lost a lot of stuff, I do not know …"

Shortly thereafter, Conrad radioed the operations line in Houston and said, "We've just lost the platform, gang, I do not know what's here but the Saturn 5 was healthy and an attentive flight controller, who remembered a similar electrical glitch while exercising, had the crew set a switch on the cockpit and the displays returned to normal.

Astronaut Alan Bean, Apollo 12 lunar module pilot, pauses on the lunar surface near a tool carrier during the Apollo 12 spacewalk. Commander Pete Conrad, who made the black and white photo, is reflected in Bean's helmet visor. Credit: NASA

Even without being struck by lightning, Bean & # 39; s first ride on a rocket left a lasting impression.

"The noise and vibration during launch were so much bigger than I expected," he said. "As a test pilot, I flew many different types of aircraft, and when the Saturn 5 started rumbling and tramping, it was so much more than I ever imagined something was wrong."

"As it turned out, there was nothing wrong , I remember a ten-minute drive with something so much more powerful and energetic, with so much more potential than I thought I was somehow overwhelmed.

Similarly, the view from orbit.

"The whole thing about the lunar outing was every part of it was more amazing and more sci-fi than I imagined," he said Looking back at Earth from outer space, I knew what it would look like. But when I got there and looked back and saw that it was out there and realized that all three of us were down there, it just seemed impossible. It just seemed too amazing to be true. The whole mission went like this.

Four days after launch, Conrad and Bean Gordon left in orbit and landed the Intrepid lunar module near a crater in the Ocean of Storms.

The goal was to demonstrate a precise landing, and the crew did just that In front of a robotic Surveyor spaceship that landed earlier in the crater, Bean shot a famous photo of Bean standing next to the Surveyor spacecraft with Intrepid in the background at the edge of the sink.

The crew hoped while sending their camera to the sun and putting them out of action with their two moonwalks the first live color television from the surface.

"He never got over it," Chaikin said. "He always felt sorry for doing so . "

But Bean's memories of the surface remained sharp in his mind, with all the clarity that would later be reflected in his paintings. In one of these titles titled" Hea venly Reflections, "Bean stands on the moon, his hand on Conrad's shoulder as both look back to the earth, as reflected in their helmets.

"When I touched Pete's shoulder, I thought I knew all the people we know, all the people we love, that we've seen on TV or read in the papers, all on top of that tiny blue-and-white marble Bean wrote about the painting [19659004] "The earth is small but so beautiful It is easily the most beautiful object that we could see from the moon It was a wonderful moment If there is a god in heaven, must be what he sees when he looks at his children on the Good Earth. "

Bean and Conrad spent seven hours and 45 minutes on the moon with two field trips, collecting about 75 pounds of lunar rock and soil, along with Components from the Surveyor Lander. They started on November 20, one day after the landing, and joined Gordon aboard Yankee Clipper command module for the return journey to Earth.

"Our rise (from the surface) was like six minutes and three seconds," said Bean. "I can remember thinking I hope this engine runs six minutes and three seconds! They did not have much instrumentation because you could not do anything about it if that was not the case … your life is on the If it does not work, you're cooked. "

But it did work, and the crew of Apollo 12 safely returned to Earth and splashed on November 24, 1969 in the Pacific Ocean.

NASA would launch another five Apollo missions, but Bean never got another chance to visit the Moon again. But he had a chance to return to space, where in 1973 he served as commander of the second three-man crew of the Skylab space station and recorded a record of 59 days in orbit at that time. His most recent flight assignment at NASA was backup commander of the Apollo-Soyuz test project in 1975.

Bean retired from the Navy that same year, but continued to head the Johnson Space Center Houston as head of the Astronaut Candidate Operations and Training Group he retired from NASA in 1981 to pursue his painting career full-time.

"His decision was based on the fact that in his 18 years as an astronaut, he was fortunate to visit worlds and see sights no artist's eye or present, has ever seen first hand," NASA said in a biography of 1993. "He wants to express these experiences through the medium of art, and he is pursuing this dream in his home and studio in Houston."

Bean recorded 1671 hours and 45 minutes in space, including 10 hours and 26 minutes of spacewalk on the moon or in orbit. He has completed more than 7,145 flight hours in a variety of aircraft, including 4,850 hours in jets.

"I became an astronaut because they fly higher and faster and further than anything else," said Bean. "So I did not do it as an explorer, I did it to be a pilot and do those amazing flying things."

He leaves behind his wife Leslie, his sister Paula Stott and two children from a previous marriage, Amy and Clay.

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