The death of Alan Bean means only four of the 12 astronauts who set foot on the moon are walking the Earth.
Bean, who became the fourth man to walk on the moon as part of the Apollo 12 mission in 1969, died today (May 26) at age 86 at Houston Methodist Hospital in Texas. He had fallen ill while traveling in Fort Wayne, Indiana two weeks ago, his family said in a statement released by NASA.
“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, his wife of 40 years. “A native Texan, Alan died peacefully in Houston surrounded by those who loved him.”
We're saddened by the passing of astronaut Alan Bean. The fourth person to walk on the Moon, he spent 10+ hours on the lunar surface during Apollo 12. Bean was spacecraft commander of Skylab Mission II & devoted his retirement to painting. Family release: https://t.co/bX8eXNQlSq pic.twitter.com/NJPQULjGlw
— NASA (@NASA) May 26, 2018
A third career as a painter of moonscapes
The onetime US Navy test pilot became an accomplished artist after retiring from the space program in 1981. He depicted scenes from the American lunar program, striving to make every detail accurate, says astronaut Harrison Schmitt, lunar module pilot on Apollo 17, the last manned moon mission.
“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,” Schmitt said in the family statement. “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, Apollo astronaut and fourth person to walk on the moon, died today at 86. He experienced something few of us will, but he shared the feeling of space travel with us through his artwork.https://t.co/YRAE85oSnX pic.twitter.com/LQi59KKHIc
— Air & Space Magazine (@airspacemag) May 26, 2018
Alan Bean’s space missions
Bean flew into space twice, first as the lunar module pilot on Apollo 12, the second moon landing mission. Then, in 1973, he commanded the second crewed flight to Skylab, a record-setting 59-day mission aboard the first US space station.
With Apollo 12 commander Charles “Pete” Conrad, Bean landed on the Ocean of Storms, helping deploy experiments that included the first nuclear-powered lunar generator station to provide its own power. He and Conrad also inspected a robotic US Surveyor spacecraft that had landed in 1967.
The men who walked on the moon
Here is the list of all of the astronauts who walked on the moon in the Apollo program:
Apollo 11, 1969
Neil Armstrong, died 2012
Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin, now 88
Apollo 12, 1969
Charles “Pete” Conrad, died 1999
Alan L. Bean, died 2018
Apollo 14, 1971
Alan Shepard, died 1998
Edgar D. Mitchell, died 2016
Apollo 15, 1971
David Scott, 85
James B. Irwin, died 1991
Apollo 16, 1972
John Young, died 2018
Charles M. Duke Jr., 82
Apollo 17, 1972
Eugene A. Cernan, died 2017
Harrison “Jack” Schmitt, 82
This story has been corrected to include the death of Young this year, which means that Bean’s death leaves four men alive who have walked on the moon: Aldrin, Scott, Duke and Schmitt. Their ages have also been added.