Alan Bean, moon-walking astronaut and artist, dies aged 86

Alan Bean

Astronaut Alan Bean poses for a portrait in front of a mockup of NASA’s lunar module in advance of his Apollo 12 moon mission in 1969

"Alan was the strongest and kindest man I ever knew", she said.

In 1973 he was commander of the second crewed flight to Skylab - America's first space station. On Nov. 19, 1969, Bean became the fourth human to walk on the moon.

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".

Alan Bean, who became the fourth man to walk on the moon and turned to painting years later to tell the story of NASA's Apollo missions as they began receding into history, died Saturday at Houston Methodist Hospital.

Alan Bean
Astronaut Alan Bean, 4th human to walk on moon, has died, NASA announces

"Alan Bean once said 'I have the nicest life in the world, '" National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Administrator Jim Bridenstine said in a statement.

His second foray outside of Earth's atmosphere saw Bean log a record-breaking 59-day, 24.4 million-mile flight (39.3 million kilometers).

But in 1981, he gave up his NASA career to become a full-time artist. I am so grateful he was my mentor and friend, and I will miss him terribly.

Retired Astronaut Alan Bean, 66, poses for a portrait in his spacesuit at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, U.S., in this undated photo.

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Those materials and memories are what Bean brought back from the moon, but he also left something behind - his silver astronaut lapel pin.

Bean was born in 1932, in Wheeler, Texas, and received a Bachelor of Science degree in aeronautical engineering from the University of Texas in 1955. "I'd say 60 percent of them thought maybe I was having a midlife crisis", Mr. Bean recalled in his book "Apollo", written with Andrew Chaikin, in which he reproduced many of his paintings. "I've got the Earth and my imagination, and I'm the first to have the moon, too".

With Bean's death, only four moonwalkers are still alive - Buzz Aldrin, Dave Scott, Charlie Duke and Harrison "Jack" Schmitt. One of his favorite tricks was to sprinkle a little moondust from his lunar patches onto his canvases as he painted.

Bean was a test pilot in the U.S. Navy.

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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.

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

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