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Alan LaVern Bean (born March 15, 1932), (CAPT, USN, Ret.), is an American former naval officer and Naval Aviator, aeronautical engineer, test pilot, and NASA astronaut; he was the fourth person to walk on the Moon. He was selected to become an astronaut by NASA in 1963 as part of Astronaut Group 3.

Alan Bean
Bean Alan KSC-69PC-0710.jpg
NASA Astronaut
Nationality American
Status Retired
Born Alan LaVern Bean
(1932-03-15) March 15, 1932 (age 86)
Wheeler, Texas, U.S.
Other occupation
Naval aviator, test pilot
UT Austin, B.S. 1955
Rank US-O6 insignia.svg Captain, USN
Time in space
69d 15h 45min
Selection 1963 NASA Group 3
Total EVAs
Total EVA time
10 hours 26 minutes[1]
Missions Apollo 12, Skylab 3
Mission insignia
Apollo 12 insignia.png Skylab2-Patch.png
Retirement June 1981
Awards NASA Distinguished Service Medal.jpg

He made his first flight into space aboard Apollo 12, the second manned mission to land on the Moon, at the age of thirty-seven years in November 1969. He made his second and final flight into space on the Skylab 3 mission in 1973, the second manned mission to the Skylab space station. After retiring from the United States Navy in 1975 and NASA in 1981, he pursued his interest in painting, depicting various space-related scenes and documenting his own experiences in space as well as that of his fellow Apollo program astronauts. As of 2018, he is also the last living crew member of Apollo 12.



Early life and educationEdit

Bean was born March 15, 1932, in Wheeler, the seat of Wheeler County in the northeastern Texas Panhandle. He is of Scottish descent. As a boy, he lived in Minden, the seat of Webster Parish in northwestern Louisiana, where his father worked for the U.S. Soil Conservation Service. He graduated from R. L. Paschal High School in Fort Worth, Texas, in 1950.[2]

Bean received a Bachelor of Science degree in Aeronautical Engineering from the University of Texas at Austin in 1955. At UT he was a member of Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity (Omega Chi chapter). He was commissioned a U.S. Navy Ensign through the Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps at UT Austin, and attended flight training.[2] After completing flight training, he was assigned to a Attack Squadron 44 (VA-44) at NAS Jacksonville, Florida from 1956 to 1960, flying the F9F Cougar and A4D Skyhawk. After a four-year tour of duty,[3] he attended the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School (USNTPS) at NAS Patuxent River, Maryland, where his instructor was his future Apollo 12 Commander, Pete Conrad. He then flew as a test pilot on several types of naval aircraft. Following his assignment at USNTPS, he was assigned to Attack Squadron 172 (VA-172) at NAS Cecil Field, Florida, flying the A-4 Skyhawk from 1962 to 1963, during which time he was selected as a NASA astronaut.[4]

Bean was a Boy Scout and he earned the rank of First Class.[5]

Bean logged more than 7,145 hours flying time, including 4,890 hours in jet aircraft.[6]

NASA careerEdit

Bean was selected by NASA as part of Astronaut Group 3 in 1963 (after not being selected for Astronaut Group 2 the previous year).[7] He was selected to be the backup command pilot for Gemini 10 but was unsuccessful in securing an early Apollo flight assignment. He was placed in the Apollo Applications Program in the interim. In that capacity, he is the first astronaut to dive in the Neutral Buoyancy Simulator and a champion of the process for astronaut training.[8] When fellow astronaut Clifton Williams was killed in an air crash, a space was opened for Bean on the backup crew for Apollo 9. Apollo 12 Commander Conrad, who had instructed Bean at the Naval Flight Test School years before, personally requested Bean to replace Williams.[4]

Apollo programEdit

Bean on the Moon during Apollo 12

Bean was the lunar module pilot on Apollo 12, the second lunar landing. In November 1969, Bean and Pete Conrad landed on the moon's Ocean of Storms—after a flight of 250,000 miles and a launch that included a harrowing lightning strike. He was the astronaut who executed John Aaron's "Flight, try SCE to 'Aux'" instruction to restore telemetry after the spacecraft was struck by lightning 36 seconds after launch, thus salvaging the mission. They explored the lunar surface, deployed several lunar surface experiments, and installed the first nuclear power generator station on the Moon to provide the power source. Dick Gordon remained in lunar orbit photographing landing sites for future missions.[6]

Pete Conrad, Dick Gordon, and Alan Bean pose with their Apollo 12 Saturn V moon rocket in the background on the pad at Cape Canaveral on 29 October 1969

Bean had planned on using a self-timer for his Hasselblad camera in order to take a photograph of both himself and Pete Conrad while on the lunar surface near the Surveyor III spacecraft. He was hoping to record a good photo, and also to confuse the mission scientists as to how the photo could have been taken. However, neither he nor Conrad could locate the timer in the tool carrier tote bag while at the Surveyor III site and thus lost the opportunity. He did not locate the self-timer until the very end of the EVA when it was too late to use - at which point he threw it as hard as he could.[9] His paintings of what this photo would have looked like (titled "The Fabulous Photo We Never Took") and one of his fruitless search for the timer ("Our Little Secret") are included in his collection of Apollo paintings.[10][11]

Bean's suit is on display in the National Air and Space Museum.[12]


Bean shaving during the Skylab 3 mission

Bean was also the spacecraft commander of Skylab 3, the second manned mission to Skylab, July 29, 1973, to September 25, 1973. With him on the 59-day, 24,400,000 mile world record setting flight were scientist-astronaut Owen Garriott and Marine Corps Colonel Jack R. Lousma.[6] During the mission Bean tested a prototype of the Manned Maneuvering Unit and performed one spacewalk outside the Skylab. The hard-working crew of Skylab 3 accomplished 150 percent of its pre-mission goals.[6]

Post-NASA careerEdit

Bean, February 2009

On his next assignment, Bean was backup spacecraft commander of the United States flight crew for the joint American-Russian Apollo-Soyuz Test Project.[6]

Bean retired from the Navy in October 1975 as a Captain but continued as head of the Astronaut Candidate Operations and Training Group within the Astronaut Office in a civilian capacity.[6]

Bean logged 1,671 hours and 45 minutes in space, of which 10 hours and 26 minutes were spent in EVAs on the Moon and in Earth orbit.[6]


Awards and honorsEdit

Bean was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Science from Texas Wesleyan College in 1972, and was presented an Honorary Doctorate of Engineering Science degree from the University of Akron (Ohio) in 1974.[6]


Bean in his studio
But I'm the only one who can paint the moon, because I'm the only one who knows whether that's right or not.

— Bean describing his Moon painting capability[2]

Bean resigned from NASA in June 1981 to devote his time to painting. He said his decision was based on the fact that, in his 18 years as an astronaut, he was fortunate enough to visit worlds and see sights no artist's eye, past or present, has ever viewed firsthand and he hoped to express these experiences through his art.[2]

As a painter, Bean wanted to add color to the Moon. "I had to figure out a way to add color to the Moon without ruining it," he remarked. In his paintings, the lunar landscape is not a monotonous gray, but shades of various colors. "If I were a scientist painting the Moon, I would paint it gray. I'm an artist, so I can add colors to the Moon", said Bean.[15]

Bean's paintings include Lunar Grand Prix and Rock and Roll on the Ocean of Storms, and he uses real moon dust in his paintings.[16] When he began painting, he realized that keepsake patches from his space suit were dirty with moon dust. He adds tiny pieces of the patches to his paintings, which make them unique. He also uses a hammer to pound the flagpole into the lunar surface, and a bronzed moon boot, to texture his paintings.[17]

Personal lifeEdit

Alan Bean museum marker in Shamrock, Texas
Bean presents a piece of moon rock at the Gasometer Oberhausen in March 2010.

Bean is married and has a son and a daughter.[6]

Bean took a little piece of MacBean tartan to the Moon.[18]

In mediaEdit

In the 1998 HBO miniseries From the Earth to the Moon, Bean was portrayed by Dave Foley.[19] Swedish indie pop artist Stina Nordenstam has a song called The Return of Alan Bean on her 1991 debut album Memories of a Color. The song runs almost six and a half minutes.[20]


  • My Life As An Astronaut (1989)
  • "Cosmic" (2008)
  • Apollo: An Eyewitness Account (with Andrew Chaikin) (1998)
  • Into the Sunlit Splendor: The Aviation Art of William S. Phillips (with Ann Cooper, Charles S. Cooper and Wilson Hurley) (2005)
  • Mission Control, This is Apollo: The Story of the First Voyages to the Moon (with Andrew Chaikin) (2009)
  • Painting Apollo: First Artist on Another World (2009)

Bean's in-flight Skylab diary is featured in "Homesteading Space," a history of the Skylab program co-authored by fellow astronauts Dr. Joseph Kerwin and Dr. Owen Garriott and writer David Hitt, published in 2008.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Joachim Becker. "Alan Bean - EVA experience". 
  2. ^ a b c d e "Piloted the lunar module on Apollo 12, the second lunar landing mission". New Mexico Museum of Space History. 
  3. ^ The Lunar Hall of Fame: Alan Bean Archived 2009-03-25 at the Wayback Machine.
  4. ^ a b "Alan Bean Oral History". NASA. Retrieved November 11, 2017. 
  5. ^ "Scouting and Space Exploration". Archived from the original on March 4, 2016. 
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y "Astronaut Bio: Alan Bean". 
  7. ^ Chaikin, Andrew. A Man on the Moon. Penguin Books Ltd. ISBN 978-0-14-024146-4. 
  8. ^ von Braun, Wernher (2010), Buckbee, Ed, ed., The Rocket Man: Wernher von Braun: The Man Who Took America to the Moon: His Weekly Notes: 1961-1969 (DVD), Steward & Wise Music Publishing, p. 1966-07 p. 79, ISBN 978-1-935001-27-0 
  9. ^ "NASA - Ocean Rendezvous". 1969-11-19. Archived from the original on 15 December 2010. Retrieved 2010-12-14. 
  10. ^ "Our Little Secret". Retrieved 2010-12-14. 
  11. ^ Bean, Alan and Chaikin, Andrew. "Apollo: An Eyewitness Account", The Greenwich Workshop Press; First Edition (January 10, 1998). ISBN 0-86713-050-4
  12. ^ "Historic Spacecraft - Space Suit Photos". 
  13. ^ "Alan Bean". Astronaut Scholarship Foundation. Retrieved December 24, 2017. 
  14. ^ "Bean, Alan L". The National Aviation Hall of Fame. Retrieved December 24, 2017. 
  15. ^ "Alan Bean". International Museum of Art. Retrieved December 24, 2017. 
  16. ^ "Conversations: Astronaut-Turned-Moon Artist Alan Bean". Washington Post. July 19, 2009. Retrieved December 24, 2017. 
  17. ^ Bean, Alan. "Message from Alan Bean". Alan Bean: first artist on another world. Retrieved 23 January 2017. 
  18. ^ "Clan MacBean Arrives On The Moon". Retrieved 2007-12-02. 
  19. ^ "From the Earth to the Moon, Full Cast and Crew". IMDb. Retrieved December 5, 2017. 
  20. ^ Alan Bean at AllMusic


External linksEdit