Wednesday, May 30, 2018

NASA Astronaut Alan Bean, 4th Man on the Moon and Accomplished Artist, Passes Away at Age 86

Portrait of Apollo 12 astronaut Alan Bean, who walked on the Moon in 1969, commanded the second Skylab crew in 1973 and went on in retirement to paint the remarkable worlds and sights he had seen like no other artist.  Credit: NASA
Ken Kremer  --  --   30 May 2018

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, FL – NASA astronaut and Navy test pilot Alan Bean, the 4th man to walk on the Moon during the Apollo program and commander of the second Skylab space station mission who became an accomplished artist after retiring from the space agency, passed away this past weekend at age 86.
Alan Bean died on Saturday, May 26, at Houston Methodist Hospital in Houston, Texas, after a short illness surrounded by his family, the family announced in a statement.
His sudden death resulted from an illness contracted just two weeks ago while traveling in Fort Wayne, Indiana
“Alan was the strongest and kindest man I ever knew. He was the love of my life and I miss him dearly,” said Leslie Bean, Alan Bean’s wife of 40 years, in a statement. “A native Texan, Alan died peacefully in Houston surrounded by those who loved him.”
Bean, a two-time space flyer, was one of only 12 humans to ever set foot on the lunar surface in the history of Humankind.  
Walkout of the Apollo 12 crew for Saturn V launch to the Moon on Nov. 14 1969 from the Kennedy Space Center, FL. Credit: Julian Leek
“As all great explorers are, Alan was a boundary pusher," NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said in a statement. "Rather than accepting the limits of technology, science, and even imagination, he sought to advance those lines -- in all his life’s endeavors.
He was originally selected by NASA as one of 14 trainees for its third group of astronauts in October 1963 – virtually all of whom went on to become famous and serve on renowned spaceflights and make legendary accomplishments as astronauts.
Bean’s history making lunar walking moment came during the Apollo 12 mission, NASA’s second lunar landing mission in November 1969, a few months after Apollo 11, the first lunar landing mission. He served as the lunar module pilot during Apollo 12.  
Alan Bean pictured by Pete Conrad (reflected in Bean's helmet). Apollo 12 astronaut Alan Bean holds a special environmental sample container which holds soil collected during the second moonwalk EVA. Commander Charles "Pete" Conrad had just put a soil sample in the tube with a shovel. The picture was taken in the vicinity of Sharp Crater. Conrad took the photograph and can be seen in the reflection in Bean's visor.  Credit: NASA
Today only four moonwalkers survive from NASA’s six successful Apollo Moon landing missions which took place nearly 5 decades ago from 1969 to 1972; Buzz Aldrin, lunar module pilot of Apollo 11, Dave Scott, commander of Apollo 15, Charlie Duke, lunar module pilot for Apollo 16, and geologist and former U.S. Sen. Harrison Schmitt, lunar module pilot for Apollo 17, the final Apollo moon landing mission in Dec 1972.
Memorial ceremony for NASA astronaut and 4th Man on the Moon Alan Bean held at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex on 30 May 2018 backdropped by a mural he painted of his Apollo 12 experiences. Credit: Ken Kremer/

During Bean’s second space mission he served as commander of the second crewed flight to America’s first space station, Skylab, in July 1973.  Skylab 3 lasted 59 days far longer than the 10-day mission of Apollo 12.  

Altogether Bean logged 69 days, 15 hours and 45 minutes in space, including 31 hours and 31 minutes on the moon’s surface during Apollo 12 and over 10 hours of spacewalks on the moon and in Earth orbit. He flew 27 aircraft types and accumulated more than 7,145 hours of flight time, 4,890 hours of it in jets.

He served in a backup role for crewmembers on Gemini 10 and Apollo 9.

“Alan and I have been best friends for 55 years — ever since the day we became astronauts,” said Walt Cunningham, who flew on Apollo 7 and was a fellow member of Astronaut Group 3, in the family statement. “When I became head of the Skylab Branch of the Astronaut Office, we worked together and Alan eventually commanded the second Skylab mission.”
“We have never lived more than a couple of miles apart, even after we left NASA. And for years, Alan and I never missed a month where we did not have a cheeseburger together at Miller’s CafĂ© in Houston. We are accustomed to losing friends in our business but this is a tough one,” said Cunningham.
The Apollo 12 crew comprised Bean, commander Charles "Pete" Conrad, Jr. and command module pilot Richard F. Gordon Jr.  The trio launched on a gargantuan Saturn V moon rocket on Nov. 14, 1969 from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Apollo 12 crew: Commander Charles "Pete" Conrad, Jr., command module pilot Richard F. Gordon Jr., lunar module pilot Alan Bean. Credit: NASA
Together with Conrad, Bean accomplished a pinpoint precision landing on the moon at the ‘Ocean of Storms’ in the lunar module “Intrepid’ on Nov. 24, 1969 while Gordon remained behind to orbit the Moon in the command module ‘Yankee Clipper’.  
Conrad and Bean landed as hoped within walking distance of NASA’s unmanned Surveyor III lunar lander – merely 600 feet away - which soft-landed on the Moon on April 19, 1967.

Charles Conrad Jr., Apollo 12 Commander, examines the unmanned Surveyor III spacecraft during the second extravehicular activity (EVA-2). The Lunar Module (LM) "Intrepid" is in the right background. This picture was taken by astronaut Alan L. Bean, Lunar Module pilot. The "Intrepid" landed on the Moon's Ocean of Storms only 600 feet from Surveyor III. The television camera and several other components were taken from Surveyor III and brought back to earth for scientific analysis. Surveyor III soft-landed on the Moon on April 19, 1967.  Credit: NASA

The crew retrieved the television camera and several other components from Surveyor III which were brought back to Earth for scientific analysis by researchers to examine the impact of enduring over 2 years on the desolate lunar surface.
Bean was the last surviving member of the Apollo 12 trio.
During Apollo 12 Conrad and Bean conducted two moon walking EVA’s that lasted nearly 4 hours each - for a combined total of 7 hours, 45 minutes, 18 seconds on the lunar surface. During Apollo 11 only 1 EVA was conducted by NASA astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin.

Apollo 12 astronaut Alan Bean on the moon. Credit: NASA

Conrad and Bean set up and deployed several surface experiments and installed the first nuclear-powered generator station on the moon to provide the power source. They also collected a priceless stash of over 34.35 kilograms (75.7 lb) of lunar rock and soil samples.
“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, in a statement.
“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.”
They also brought the first color camera to the lunar surface but it was irreparably damaged just minutes into the first EVA when Bean accidentally pointed it towards the sun- which he forever regretted. Thus there was no live video transmissions of the two moonwalks. 
In an interview for NASA's 50th anniversary in 2008, “Bean said walking on the moon was one of the most fun things he had done.”
"At one-sixth gravity in that suit, you have to move in a different way," he told NASA. "One of the paintings that I did was called 'Tip Toeing on The Ocean of Storms.' And it shows that I'm up on my tip toes as I'm moving around. And we did that a lot. On Earth, I weighed 150 pounds; my suit and backpack weighed another 150. 300 pounds. Up there, I weighed only 50. So I could prance around on my toes. It was quite easy to do. And if you remember back to some of the television we saw, Buzz and Neil on the Moon with Apollo 11. Black and white. They were bouncing around a lot. They were really bouncing on their tip toes. Quite fun to do. Someday maybe be a great place for a vacation."
Bean’s second spaceflight as commander of the Skylab 3 mission set a then world space endurance record of 59 days from July 19 to Sept. 25, 1973.  
NASA Skylab space station prior to launch on Saturn V from KSC. Credit: Julian Leek

Bean and crewmates Owen K. Garriott and Jack R. Lousma sailed 4.4-million-miles in Earth orbit inside the Skylab space station and carried out much science research focusing on the sun and Earth and human physiology.
Astronaut Alan Bean, Skylab 3 commander, flies the M509 Astronaut Maneuvering Equipment in the forward dome area of the Orbital Workshop on the space station cluster in Earth orbit. Bean is strapped into the back mounted, hand-controlled Automatically Stabilized Maneuvering Unit (ASMU). The dome area is about 22 feet in diameter and 19 feet from top to bottom.  Credits: NASA

During his career Bean established 11 records in space and aeronautics, and received many awards and honors.
“Among those awards were two NASA distinguished service medals, two Navy Distinguished Service Medals, the Rear Admiral William S. Parsons Award for Scientific and Technical Progress, the Robert J. Collier Trophy, the Federation Aeronautique Internationale’s Yuri Gagarin Gold Medal, the V.M. Komarov diploma, the Robert H. Patuxent River Goddard Gold Medal, the AIAA Octave Chanute Award and the ASA Flight Achievement Award,” said NASA. 
After 18 years at NASA he retired in 1981 he started a third career and became an acclaimed artist who painted moonscapes, sprinkled in with a touch of moon dust from his patches and embossed with a replica of the boot he wore on the moon and hammer he collected moon rocks with.
 “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, in a family statement.

Alan Bean: 4th Man on the Moon – An American Space Hero Forever Remembered- plaque at the US Astronaut Hall Of Fame at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, FL. Credit: Ken Kremer/

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Apollo 12 mission patch

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