Apollo Moonwalker and artist Alan Bean dies at 86

Astronaut Alan L. Bean holds a Special Environmental Sample Container filled with lunar soil collected during the Apollo 12 mission in this NASA handout

He twice ventured into space, originally in 1969 on the Apollo 12 moon landing mission, and later as commander of the second crew to fly to the first United States space station Skylab in 1973.

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".

Bean died at Houston Methodist Hospital in Houston at the age of 86.

Schmitt, the lunar module pilot for Apollo 17, was one of many astronauts who mourned Bean's death and paid tribute Saturday to his accomplishments that blazed trails for future space exploration. "He was the love of my life and I miss him dearly", said Leslie Bean, the moonwalker's wife of 40 years, said in a statement. Bean and Conrad spent more than 31 hours on the lunar surface, including more than seven hours working outside of the module.

Born on March 15, 1932, in Wheeler, Texas, Bean was a test pilot in the US Navy when NASA selected him and 13 others in October 1963 for training to become the third group of NASA astronauts, according to the family obituary shared by the space agency.

Retired Astronaut Alan Bean 66 poses for a portrait in his spacesuit at the Johnson Space Center in Houston Texas U.S
Image Alan Bean was the fourth man to walk on the moon

"I'd always wanted to be a pilot, ever since I could remember", said Bean 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.

On the Skylab mission, Bean orbited the Earth for 59 days. But I want it to be the most attractive black dirt that's ever been painted in the history of art.

FILE PHOTO: Astronaut Alan L. Bean holds a Special Environmental Sample Container filled with lunar soil collected during the Apollo 12 mission in this NASA handout photo provided November 19, 1969. "I thought maybe I could learn to be, so that appealed to me". Some of his pieces even integrated moon dust, lunar boot prints and his mission patches. "He was a one of a kind combination of technical achievement as an astronaut and artistic achievement as a painter". "I think a lot of it just had to do with it looked exciting".

Mr. Bean returned to space in July 1973, when he commanded a three-man flight to the orbiting space research station Skylab, the forerunner of the International Space Station.

Bean is survived by his wife Leslie; two children from a previous marriage, Amy Sue and Clay; and sister Paula Scott.

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