Apollo Moonwalker Alan Bean dies at 86 after illness

Astronaut Alan Bean poses for a portrait in front of a mock-up of the Lunar Module

Astronaut Alan Bean poses for a portrait in front of a mock-up of the Lunar Module

He died Saturday at Houston Methodist Hospital.

He became the fourth human to walk on the moon during the Apollo 12 mission in November 1969, exploring Oceanus Procellarum alongside the late astronaut Pete Conrad.

Bean was born in Wheeler, Texas, in 1932 and educated at the University of Texas - graduating in 1955. "When I became head of the Skylab Branch of the Astronaut Office, we worked together and Alan eventually commanded the second Skylab mission".

He was 86 years old.

His wife of 40 years, Leslie Bean, said in a statement: 'Alan was the strongest and kindest man I ever knew.

He spent 31 hours on the moon deploying surface experiments with commander Charles Conrad and collecting 75 pounds (34 kilograms) of rocks and lunar soil for study back on Earth, according to a statement from NASA.

In 1998 NASA oral history, Bean recalled his excitement at preparing to fly to the moon.

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Alan Bean, a former US Navy test pilot, was selected by Nasa as a trainee in 1963. "But I've been there and I can tell you it's mostly black dirt".

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).

He said he thought about it often, "and when I look at the moon at night, [I] think about that pin up there, just as shiny as it ever was, and someday maybe somebody will go pick it up".

"He was a one-of-a-kind combination of technical achievement as an astronaut and artistic achievement as a painter", said Massimino, who flew on two space shuttle missions.

He retired from NASA in 1981 to embark on a third career as an artist, creating Apollo-themed paintings textured with lunar boot prints or using acrylics infused with small bits of his mission patches sprinkled with moon dust.

"I remember once looking back at Earth and starting to think, 'Gee, that's lovely.' Then I said to myself, 'Quit screwing off and go collect rocks.' We figured reflection wasn't productive", Alan Bean was quoted as saying by People magazine in 1981. I am so grateful he was my mentor and friend, and I will miss him terribly.

He is survived by his wife, a sister and two children.

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