NASA astronaut Alan Bean died on Saturday in a Houston hospital at the age of 86. In November of 1969, he became the fourth person to walk on the moon during the Apollo 12 mission—four months after Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first people to make the lunar trek on Apollo 11.
Bean's passing was announced by NASA in a press release this weekend. He became suddenly ill while traveling in Indiana two weeks ago.
After Apollo 12, other notable missions for Bean included commanding a crew on board the Skylab orbital workshop. During his entire career with NASA, Bean logged over 69 total days in space and 31 hours on the moon's surface.
Speaking on the moon walk, Apollo 17 lunar module pilot Harrison Schmitt says, "Alan and [fellow Apollo 11 astronaut] Pete Conrad were extremely engaged in the planning for their exploration of the Surveyor III landing site in the Ocean of Storms and, particularly, in the enhanced field training activity that came with the success of Apollo 11. This commitment paid off with Alan's and Pete's collection of a fantastic suite of lunar samples, a scientific gift that keeps on giving today and in the future."
After retiring from NASA in 1981, Bean dedicated himself to life as a painter and used his experiences as inspiration for the canvas.
In 1994, he told The New York Times, "Every artist has the earth or their imaginations to inspire their paintings. I’ve got the earth and my imagination, and I’m the first to have the moon, too."
In his 1998 book, Apollo, Bean discussed his inspirations and goals as a painter by writing, "You know, people romanticize the moon. But I’ve been there and I can tell you it’s mostly black dirt. But I want it to be the most beautiful black dirt that’s ever been painted in the history of art." He added, "I think of myself not as an astronaut who paints, but as an artist who was once an astronaut."