Alan Bean the fourth astronaut to walk on the moon before becoming a painter died Saturday at the age of 86 in Texas. "He was the love of my life and I miss him dearly", said Leslie Bean, Alan Bean's wife of 40 years. She added he died "peacefully. surrounded by those who loved him". Bean reportedly became sick while in Forth Wayne, Indiana two weeks before his death. He attended the Navy Test Pilot School and was one of 14 trainees selected by NASA for its third group of astronauts in October 1963.
Bean, who passed away at Houston Methodist after battling a short illness, was a lunar module pilot on Apollo 12 in 1969, the second manned flight to land on the moon.
On that mission, he lived and worked on board the Skylab, orbiting the Earth for 59 days, traveling 24.4million miles.
In total, Bean spent 69 days, 15 hours and 45 minutes in space, including 31 hours and 31 minutes on the moon.
Bean retired from the Navy in 1975 and NASA in 1981.
According to NASA, Bean based that decision on his almost two decades of experience as an astronaut "during which he visited places and saw things no artist's eye had ever seen firsthand".
"Sad day. Not only did we lose a spaceflight pioneer, 4th man to walk on the moon, but also an exceptional artist that brought his experience back to Earth to share with the world".
He became the fourth human to walk on the moon during the Apollo 12 mission in November 1969, exploring Oceanus Procellarum alongside the late astronaut Pete Conrad.
They were busy, but, as Bean recalled during a 2016 NPR interview, "as I ran along, I remember. saying to myself, 'You know, this is really the moon".
"A lot of things I think about come from the right side of my brain", he said in 2007. "The other half, the ones that were more right-brain, thought it was a pretty good idea".
Working at his home in Houston, Bean created paintings that focused on the Apollo missions, with images of himself and other astronauts on the moon rendered with the authenticity in lighting and color that only an eyewitness could provide.
Many of Mr. Bean's fellow astronauts were evidently taken aback by his choosing the art world over private business.
Bean was born on March 15, 1932 in Wheeler, Texas.
Bean is survived by his wife Leslie; two children from a previous marriage, Amy Sue and Clay; and sister Paula Scott.