Alan LaVern Bean (March 15, 1932 – May 26, 2018) was an American naval officer and naval aviator, aeronautical engineer, test pilot, and NASA astronaut; he was the fourth person to walk on the Moon. He was selected to become an astronaut by NASA in 1963 as part of Astronaut Group 3.
He made his first flight into space aboard Apollo 12, the second manned mission to land on the Moon, at age 37 in November 1969. He made his second and final flight into space on the Skylab 3 mission in 1973, the second manned mission to the Skylab space station. After retiring from the United States Navy in 1975 and NASA in 1981, he pursued his interest in painting, depicting various space-related scenes and documenting his own experiences in space as well as that of his fellow Apollo program astronauts. He was the last living crew member of Apollo 12.
|Born||Alan LaVern Bean|
March 15, 1932
Wheeler, Texas, U.S.
|Died||May 26, 2018 (aged 86)|
Houston, Texas, U.S.
|Naval aviator, test pilot|
|UT Austin, B.S. 1955|
Time in space
|69d 15h 45min|
|Selection||1963 NASA Group 3|
Total EVA time
|10 hours 26 minutes|
|Missions||Apollo 12, Skylab 3|
Bean was born March 15, 1932, in Wheeler, the seat of Wheeler County in the northeastern Texas Panhandle. He considered Fort Worth his hometown. He was of Scottish descent. As a boy, he lived in Minden, the seat of Webster Parish in northwestern Louisiana, where his father worked for the U.S. Soil Conservation Service. Bean was a Boy Scout and he earned the rank of First Class. He graduated from R. L. Paschal High School in Fort Worth, Texas, in 1950.
He was commissioned a U.S. Navy ensign through the Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps at UT Austin, and attended flight training. After completing flight training, he was assigned to a Attack Squadron 44 (VA-44) at NAS Jacksonville, Florida, from 1956 to 1960, flying the F9F Cougar and A4D Skyhawk. After a four-year tour of duty, he attended the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School (USNTPS) at NAS Patuxent River, Maryland, where his instructor was his future Apollo 12 Commander, Pete Conrad. He then flew as a test pilot on several types of naval aircraft. Following his assignment at USNTPS, he was assigned to Navy Attack Squadron VA-172 at NAS Cecil Field, Florida, flying the A-4 Skyhawk from 1962 to 1963, during which time he was selected as a NASA astronaut.
Bean was selected by NASA as part of Astronaut Group 3 in 1963 (after not being selected for Astronaut Group 2 the previous year). He was selected to be the backup command pilot for Gemini 10, but was unsuccessful in securing an early Apollo flight assignment. He was placed in the Apollo Applications Program in the interim. In that capacity, he was the first astronaut to dive in the Neutral Buoyancy Simulator and a champion of the process for astronaut training. When fellow astronaut Clifton Williams was killed in an air crash, a space was opened for Bean on the backup crew for Apollo 9. Apollo 12 Commander Conrad, who had instructed Bean at the Naval Flight Test School years before, personally requested Bean to replace Williams.
Bean was the lunar module pilot on Apollo 12, the second lunar landing. In November 1969, Bean and Pete Conrad landed on the moon's Ocean of Storms—after a flight of 250,000 miles and a launch that included a harrowing lightning strike. He was the astronaut who executed John Aaron's "Flight, try SCE to 'Aux'" instruction to restore telemetry after the spacecraft was struck by lightning 36 seconds after launch, thus salvaging the mission. They explored the lunar surface, deployed several lunar surface experiments, and installed the first nuclear power generator station on the Moon to provide the power source. Dick Gordon remained in lunar orbit, photographing landing sites for future missions.
Bean had planned on using a self-timer for his Hasselblad camera to take a photograph of both Pete Conrad and himself while on the lunar surface near the Surveyor III spacecraft. He was hoping to record a good photo, and also to confuse the mission scientists as to how the photo could have been taken. However, neither Conrad nor he could locate the timer in the tool carrier tote bag while at the Surveyor III site, thus lost the opportunity. He did not locate the self-timer until the end of the EVA when it was too late to use — when he threw it as hard as he could. His paintings of what this photo would have looked like (titled "The Fabulous Photo We Never Took") and one of his fruitless search for the timer ("Our Little Secret") are included in his collection of Apollo paintings.
Bean was also the spacecraft commander of Skylab 3, the second manned mission to Skylab, from July 29 to September 25, 1973. With him on the 59-day, 24.4 million mile world-record-setting flight were scientist-astronaut Owen Garriott and Marine Corps Colonel Jack R. Lousma. During the mission, Bean tested a prototype of the Manned Maneuvering Unit and performed one spacewalk outside the Skylab. The crew of Skylab 3 accomplished 150% of its mission goals.
Bean resigned from NASA in June 1981 to devote his time to painting. He said his decision was based on the fact that, in his 18 years as an astronaut, he was fortunate enough to visit worlds and see sights no artist's eye, past or present, has ever viewed firsthand and he hoped to express these experiences through his art.
As a painter, Bean wanted to add color to the Moon. "I had to figure out a way to add color to the Moon without ruining it," he remarked. In his paintings, the lunar landscape is not a monotonous gray, but shades of various colors. "If I were a scientist painting the Moon, I would paint it gray. I'm an artist, so I can add colors to the Moon", said Bean.
Bean's paintings include Lunar Grand Prix and Rock and Roll on the Ocean of Storms, and he used real moon dust in his paintings. When he began painting, he realized that keepsake patches from his space suit were dirty with moon dust. He added tiny pieces of the patches to his paintings, which made them unique. He also used a hammer, used to pound the flagpole into the lunar surface, and a bronzed moon boot to texture his paintings.
But I'm the only one who can paint the moon, because I'm the only one who knows whether that's right or not.— Bean describing his Moon painting capability
Bean died on May 26, 2018, in Houston, Texas, at the age of 86. His death followed the sudden onset of illness two weeks before while he was in Fort Wayne, Indiana. At the time of his death, Bean was married to his second wife, Leslie. He had a son, Clay, and a daughter, Amy Sue, both from his first marriage.
Bean was interred in Arlington National Cemetery on November 8, 2018 with a service which included a flyover, military band, carriage procession, and gun salute.
Bean was inducted into the International Space Hall of Fame in 1983, the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame in 1997, the International Air & Space Hall of Fame in 2010, and the National Aviation Hall of Fame for 2010. He was also a fellow of the American Astronautical Society and a member of the Society of Experimental Test Pilots.
Bean received the University of Texas Distinguished Alumnus Award in 1970 and the Distinguished Engineering Graduate Award. The 1973 Robert J. Collier Trophy was awarded to NASA and the Skylab crew. Bean was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Science from Texas Wesleyan College in 1972, and was presented an Honorary Doctorate of Engineering Science degree from the University of Akron (Ohio) in 1974. In 1975, President Ford presented Skylab commander Gerald Carr with the Dr. Robert H. Goddard Memorial Trophy at a White House ceremony, on behalf of all Skylab astronauts (including Bean). Bean was a co-recipient of AIAA's Octave Chanute Award for 1975, along with fellow Skylab 3 astronauts Jack Lousma and Owen Garriott.
In the 1998 HBO miniseries From the Earth to the Moon, Bean was portrayed by Dave Foley. Swedish indie pop artist Stina Nordenstam has a song called "The Return of Alan Bean" on her 1991 debut album Memories of a Color. British indie rock band Hefner released a single called "Alan Bean" in 2001, writing from the perspective of Bean during Apollo 12.
Bean's in-flight Skylab diary is featured in Homesteading Space: the Skylab Story, a history of the Skylab program co-authored by fellow astronauts Dr. Joseph Kerwin and Dr. Owen Garriott and writer David Hitt, published in 2008.