Apollo 12 & Skylab Astronaut Alan Bean Passes Away at 86

Alan Bean (Credit: NASA)

Astronaut Alan Bean has passed away at the age of 86. Bean walked on the moon and commanded a Skylab crew before becoming an accomplished painter.

Below is a NASA biography of him.


Alan Bean walked on the moon on Apollo 12, commanded the second Skylab crew and then resigned after 18 years as an astronaut to paint the remarkable worlds and sights he had seen.

Bean was lunar module pilot on the November 1969 Apollo 12 mission, the second moon landing.  He and mission commander Pete Conrad explored on the lunar Ocean of Storms and set up several experiments powered by a small nuclear generator.

“As all great explorers are, Alan was a boundary pusher,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said in a statement. “Rather than accepting the limits of technology, science, and even imagination, he sought to advance those lines — in all his life’s endeavors.


Link: Administrator Bridenstine’s full statement on the passing of Alan Bean

Link:: Bean family’s statement

Link: JSC Center Director Mark Geyer’s statement


In an interview for NASA’s 50th anniversary in 2008, Bean said walking on the moon was one of the most fun things he had done.

“At one-sixth gravity in that suit, you have to move in a different way,” he said. “One of the paintings that I did was called ‘Tip Toeing on The Ocean of Storms.’ And it shows that I’m up on my tip toes as I’m moving around. And we did that a lot. On Earth, I weighed 150 pounds; my suit and backpack weighed another 150. 300 pounds. Up there, I weighed only 50. So I could prance around on my toes. It was quite easy to do. And if you remember back to some of the television we saw, Buzz and Neil on the Moon with Apollo 11. Black and white. They were bouncing around a lot. They were really bouncing on their tip toes. Quite fun to do. Someday maybe be a great place for a vacation.”

He was a Navy ROTC student there and was commissioned when he graduated.  After he finished flight training, he spent four years with a jet attack squadron and then attended Navy test pilot school.

Bean flew as a test pilot on several types of aircraft before he was selected with the third group of NASA astronauts in October 1963.  He served as a backup for crewmembers on Gemini 10 and Apollo 9.

After his Apollo and Skylab flights, Bean remained with NASA while many of his astronaut colleagues went elsewhere as the Apollo program wound down.  He served as a backup spacecraft commander for the last Apollo flight, the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project in July 1975.

He retired from the Navy as a captain in October 1975 but continued to work with NASA as a civilian. He headed the Astronaut Office’s Astronaut Candidate Operations and Training Group at Johnson Space Center.

Bean logged 1,672 hours in space, including more than 10 hours of spacewalks on the moon and in Earth orbit. He flew 27 aircraft types and accumulated more than 7,145 hours of flight time, 4,890 hours of it in jets.


Link: Alan Bean interviews with the JSC Oral History project.


During his career he established 11 records in space and aeronautics, and received many awards and honors.

Among those awards were two NASA distinguished service medals, two Navy Distinguished Service Medals, the Rear Admiral William S. Parsons Award for Scientific and Technical Progress, the Robert J. Collier Trophy, the Federation Aeronautique Internationale’s Yuri Gagarin Gold Medal, the V.M. Komarov diploma, the Robert H. Patuxent River Goddard Gold Medal, the AIAA Octave Chanute Award and the ASA Flight Achievement Award.

His decision to retire from NASA to devote full time to painting was, he said, based on his 18 years as an astronaut, during which he visited places and saw things no artist’s eye had ever seen firsthand.  He said he hoped to capture those experiences through his art.

He followed that dream for many years at his home studio in Houston, with considerable success. His paintings were particularly popular among space enthusiasts.

  • Bulldog

    I am so sorry to hear this news. I had a chance to meet Capt. Bean and he had a great sense of humor and teriffic outlook on life. God Speed Capt. Bean, you will be missed.

  • duheagle

    As with all the now-absent giants of that era, Alan Bean will be sorely missed. The ranks of the Moonwalkers have now dwindled to four. It would be nice if at least one of them is still alive when American boots next touch the Moon.

  • windbourne

    a lot will depend on Trump. At this point, I am starting to get discouraged. So very little has happened. Hopefully, it was due to lack of nasa admin.

    But, I agree. It really would be nice to see SOME form of continuity on this.

  • windbourne

    RIP Capt. Bean and condolences to the family and friends.

  • duheagle

    Well, given that Bridenstine moved almost immediately to expand and speed up NASA’s lunar exploration efforts and did likewise for Mars exploration by okaying the helicopter drone for the 2020 Rover, I think anyone looking at things through non-ideological lenses would have to say, yes, the lack of a NASA administrator, due mostly to across-the-board Democratic intransigence and a minor supporting role by a lone Republican piss-ant Senator, has been the main reason more has not been accomplished to this point. Fortunately, Mr. Bridenstine seems to be a man looking to make up for lost time.

  • windbourne

    Hey. I thought the Landers were encouraging. But 1 small lander a year does not help anybody.

  • duheagle

    Eight landers by 2022. Do the math.

  • windbourne

    lets see.
    1 lander / year.
    2022 – 2018 = 4.
    That is 4 landers.

    THAT is the math.
    How do you get 8 when they are only doing 1 / year?