Astronaut and moonwalker Alan Bean dies at 86

Alan Bean

But he gave it up because "the more I thought about it, the more I realized there were young men and women at NASA in the astronaut office that could fly the shuttle as good as I could or better, but I was the only one interested in trying to do this other job".

In later life he became an accomplished artist, producing paintings that were inspired by space.

Bean served as a test pilot in the U.S. Navy, and was among 14 trainees who were selected by NASA in 1963 for its third group of astronauts - after the Mercury Seven and the New Nine. But it wasn't until Apollo 12 that he flew in space. He was fascinated by model planes as a youngster and earned a bachelor's degree in aeronautical engineering in 1955 from the University of Texas.

Seconds after the capsule's liftoff, a lightning strike knocked out its electrical equipment, but its power was quickly restored.

Alan Bean

"In total, Bean logged 69 days, 15 hours and 45 minutes in space", the obituary said, "including 31 hours and 31 minutes on the moon's surface".

In all, 24 people have flown to the Moon and 12 have set foot on it, according to Nasa.

The three astronauts, all holding the rank of Navy commander, splashed down in the Pacific Ocean only 3 miles from the aircraft carrier Hornet.

Conrad died in a motorcycle accident in 1999; Gordon died in 2017.

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Bean's passing means only four of the 12 Apollo moonwalkers are still alive, with a string of lunar landing anniversaries due to begin next year.

He retired from the Navy in 1975 but remained with NASA for six more years, overseeing the training of future astronauts.

Alan Bean's "Reaching for the Stars" graces the wall of the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame.

In addition to his wife, Leslie, Alan Bean is survived by a sister, Paula Stott; and two children from a previous marriage, Amy Sue Bean and Clay Bean. He used plywood covered by slowly hardening acrylic paste and pounded on that surface with a hammer he had employed on the moon, a way to have his paintings simulate its rugged terrain. One of his favorite tricks was to sprinkle a little moondust from his lunar patches onto his canvases as he painted. "Alan and I never missed a month where we did not have a cheeseburger".

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"A lot of things I think about come from the right side of my brain", he said in 2007.

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