NASA Astronaut Alan Bean dies at 86

Former astronaut Alan Bean became a painter re-creating what it was like to be on the moon using actual moon dust and ground-up remnants of Apollo spacecraft

Bean died at the Houston Methodist Hospital after becoming sick two weeks ago, according to a statement from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

The mission was a success, even though it started with a jolt. Shortly after takeoff, the rocket was hit by lightning but the crew was able to continue the scheduled flight to the Moon. On that mission, he orbited the Earth for 59 days and traveled 24.4 million miles, setting a world record at the time. On Nov. 19, 1969, Bean became the fourth human to walk on the moon.

After Apollo, Bean commanded the second crewed flight to the United States' first space station, Skylab, in 1973.

His paintings drew on his recollections, interviews with fellow astronauts, photos, and videos.

Bean spent 31 hours on the moon, collecting samples and deploying several experiments with mission commander Charles "Pete" Conrad Jr.

"A lot of things I think about come from the right side of my brain", he said in 2007. "If he hadn't had the window behind him, he would have gone over backwards. I said, 'I don't know, but if I can't I'm going to go to work at Jack in the Box (the fast-food hamburger chain)".

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His Apollo-themed paintings feature canvases textured with lunar boot prints and embedded with small pieces of his moon dust-stained mission patches. He sold his paintings on his website and had fetched as much as $175,000 for a single painting by then, although he had received limited attention from critics, The Times reported.

Bean was born on March 15, 1932, in Wheeler, Texas, and grew up in Fort Worth.

In 1994 Bean told The New York Times the otherworldly perspectives he got in space inspired him to devote the latter half of his life to art, to the surprise of many of his colleagues.

Back in 1998, Mr Bean described his preparation for the moon landing as "Christmas and your birthday rolled into one", adding: "I mean, can you think of anything better?"

"Alan Bean was the most extraordinary person I ever met", astronaut Mike Massimino told NASA. He aspired to become a pilot and started flight training at age 17. He earned a degree in aeronautical engineering at the University of Texas, then was commissioned as a US Navy officer.

The flight of Apollo 12, while thrilling in its own right, was not almost as dramatic as the pioneering mission of Apollo 11, but it resulted in a more extensive exploration of the moon. He was 86 years old. He had two children by a previous marriage.

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