Alan Bean, who walked on the moon as part of the Apollo 12 mission, and later commanded America’s first space station, passed away today, May 26, 2018, in Houston. He was 86.
“Alan Bean was an American hero who served his country with distinction as a decorated Naval aviator, test pilot and Apollo astronaut,” said Jim Kidrick, President and CEO of the San Diego Air & Space Museum. “As a member of the International Air & Space Hall of Fame and a regular honored guest at our events, he will always be remembered with great affection here at the Museum.”
Born March 15, 1932 in Wheeler, Texas, Alan LaVern Bean attended the University of Texas, earning an aeronautical engineering degree in 1955. As a Navy fighter and test pilot, he flew 27 different aircraft, accumulating 7,145 hours of flying time. Bean joined NASA in October 1963, selected as a part of astronaut Group 3. His initial assignments were on the back-up crews for Gemini 10 and Apollo 9. Bean was then selected as lunar module pilot for the 1969 Apollo 12 lunar landing mission. During the mission, he explored the lunar surface during two moon walks.
He flew a second time in space as commander of Skylab II in 1973, orbiting the earth aboard America’s first space station for a record 59 days, testing many of the concepts employed today by International Space Station astronauts.
Captain Bean retired from the Navy in 1975, continuing to work for NASA as head of the Astronaut Candidate Operations and Training Group. He earned many honors and awards during his career, including two NASA Distinguished Service medals in 1981. That same year, he retired from NASA to devote his time to painting dramatic moonscapes that no camera could capture.
“The Apollo 12 mission could easily have been chosen to make the first moon landing instead of Apollo 11,” explained Francis French, the Museum’s Director of Education. “The slightest delay in the program, or a problem on Apollo 11, could have meant Alan Bean would have made the very first moon landing. As it was, he instead made the second, adding to our knowledge of that mysterious place. With his command of the second mission to Skylab, the first American space station, he greatly advanced our knowledge of how to live and work in the new frontier of space long-term. Perhaps most significantly, after NASA he chose to dedicate the rest of his life to painting his experiences of walking on the moon. In doing so, he allowed us to feel what he experienced. Twelve Americans walked on the moon, but only one painted it, and in doing so he shared the experience in a unique and profound way that no one else did.”
Alan Bean’s passing leaves only four of the twelve Americans who walked on the Moon still alive: Buzz Aldrin, Dave Scott, Charlie Duke and Harrison Schmitt.
Bean was inducted into the International Air & Space Hall of Fame at the San Diego Air & Space Museum in 2010. For more, visit http://sandiegoairandspace.org/hall-of-fame/honoree/captain-alan-bean