Alan LaVern Bean (born March 15, 1932) is a former NASA Astronaut and became the fourth person to walk on the moon at the age of thirty-seven years in November 1969.
Bean was born in Wheeler
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 Soil Conservation Service. Bean graduated from R. L. Paschal High School
in Fort Worth
. He 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
. After a four year tour as a fighter pilot assigned to a jet attack squadron in Jacksonville, Fla., he trained as a Navy Test Pilot where his instructor was his future Apollo 12
Commander Pete Conrad
. He 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.
Bean was selected by NASA as part of group 3 in 1963. 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. When fellow astronaut Clifton Williams
was killed in an air crash, a space was opened for Bean on the back-up 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.
Bean was the lunar module pilot on Apollo 12, the second lunar landing. In November 1969, Al Bean and Pete Conrad landed in the moon's Ocean of Storms—after a flight of 250,000 miles and a launch that included a harrowing lightning strike. Bean was the astronaut who executed John Aaron's famous "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.
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 Dr. Owen Garriott
and Marine Corps Lieutenant Colonel Jack Lousma
. During the mission Bean also tested a prototype of the Manned Maneuvering Unit
and performed one space walk outside the Skylab.
On his next assignment, Bean was backup spacecraft commander of the United States flight crew for the joint American-Russian Apollo-Soyuz Test Project
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.
Bean as an artist
Bean resigned from NASA in June 1981 to devote his full time to painting
. Many of his paintings reside on the walls of space enthusiasts. 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 hopes to express these experiences through the medium of art. He is pursuing this dream at his home and studio in Houston.
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. If you look at his paintings, you will see 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." says Bean.
Alan Bean's paintings include "Lunar Grand Prix" and "Rock and Roll on the Ocean of Storms". He is the only artist in the world to use real moon dust on his paintings. 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 the hammer used to pound the flagpole into the lunar surface to texture his paintings.
He is married and has two grown children, a son and a daughter.
It is a point of pride to Bean that, on his Apollo 12 mission, he left the flag of his alma mater, R. L. Paschal High School, on the moon where it currently resides. He also took great pride in his Scottish roots and took a little piece of McBean tartan to the moon. There is a swatch of this tartan on display in the Church of St Bean in Fowlis Wester which is a tranquil village in Perthshire, Scotland.
- Rock band Hefner have a song called "Alan Bean", featuring the lyrics "Everyone will forget soon, The fourth man on the moon, But I've got it in my mind." Bean appeared by telephone on a recording of a Dutch radio show on the VPRO broadcasting organisation when the band was performing in Amsterdam and talked with them shortly after its release.
- British band Lemon Jelly features the voice of Alan Bean (describing the sunrise, as seen during a spacewalk) in their song "Spacewalk" from the album Lost Horizons.
- Swedish singer-songwriter Stina Nordenstam has a song called "The return of Alan Bean" on her 1991 debut album Memories of a Colour.
- Bean was on The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson on August 21, 2007.
- Alan Bean is one of the astronauts profiled in the documentary In the Shadow of the Moon.
- Bean is one of the astronauts profiled in the documentary The Wonder Of It All.
- An entire episode of the miniseries, From the Earth to the Moon was narrated from Bean's perspective; in this episode, he was portrayed by Dave Foley.
Jones, Eric TV Troubles
. (1995). Retrieved on 2007-07-16..