US astronaut Alan Bean, the fourth person to walk on the moon, died on Saturday at the age of 86, NASA has confirmed.
Bean died at Texas' Houston Methodist Hospital after he suddenly fell ill while travelling in Indiana a fortnight prior, NASA said in an obituary released on the Bean family's behalf.
‘Alan was the strongest and kindest man I ever knew. He was the love of my life and I miss him dearly,’ his wife of 40 years Leslie Bean said.
The native Texan was a US Navy test pilot when selected as a trainee in NASA's third group of astronauts in October 1963.
He flew into space twice, first as Apollo 12's lunar module pilot in November 1969 when he became the fourth person to walk on the moon. During that mission he installed the first nuclear-powered generator on the moon, conducted several experiments and collected rocks and soil for study back on Earth.
In July 1973, Bean commanded the second crewed flight to the US' first space station, Skylab. He and his two crewmates spent 59 days days aboard the orbital station studying Earth, covering almost 40 million kilometres and taking 76,000 photographs of the Sun for research purposes.
Bean left NASA in 1981 and spent almost four decades as an artist, creating what NASA called ‘Apollo-themed paintings’ featuring ‘canvases textured with lunar boot prints and made using acrylics embedded with small pieces of his moon dust-stained mission patches.’
He is survived by his wife, sister and two children.
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