NASA Astronaut Alan Bean dies at 86

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During the Apollo 12 mission, Bean walked on the moon alongside Charles "Pete" Conrad, who died in July 1999 at age 69. "We will remember him fondly as the great explorer who reached out to embrace the universe".

Of the four men, only Aldrin is still alive, now aged 88.

He trained as a Navy test pilot under Conrad, who years later during their astronaut time played a crucial role in getting Bean designated for the Apollo mission.

"His enthusiasm about space and art never waned". Bean was "one of the great renaissance men of his generation - engineer, fighter pilot, astronaut and artist", said fellow astronaut Harrison Schmitt.

In 1998 NASA oral history, Bean recalled his excitement at preparing to fly to the moon. "I mean, can you think of anything better?"

He went into space twice, the first time in November 1969 as the lunar module pilot on the Apollo 12 moon-landing mission.

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 received a Bachelor of Science degree in aeronautical engineering from the University of Texas in 1955. In 1963, he was selected to join NASA's third group of astronauts.

"It looked like courageous people did that".

"I just say it how I think it, even though other people will say, 'That's weird, ' because it's from the other side of the brain", he said.

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A decade later, Bean told me that his brain must have been wired differently from the norm for astronauts.

His Apollo-themed paintings feature canvases textured with lunar boot prints and embedded with small pieces of his moon dust-stained mission patches.

The retired astronaut fell ill two weeks ago while traveling in Fort Wayne, Indiana, the statement said. "He was a one of a kind combination of technical achievement as an astronaut and artistic achievement as a painter". His trips to space prompted his surprise turn of career.

Reflecting on his experience, Bean once said: "I remember once looking back at Earth and starting to think, Gee, that's handsome.' Then I said to myself, 'Quit screwing off and go collect rocks.' We figured reflection wasn't productive". Kelly added: "Fair winds and following seas, Captain".

"Retired astronaut Clayton Anderson tweeted "#RIP Alan Bean.

"Alan was the strongest and kindest man I ever knew", she said.

"Alan Bean once said 'I have the nicest life in the world, ' " Bridenstine said in a statement.

He leaves his second wife, Leslie, a son, Clay, and a daughter, Amy Sue, from his marriage to his first wife, Sue.

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