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Astronauts in space, on Earth mourn loss of Apollo moonwalker Alan Bean

Alan Bean, who died on May 26, 2018 at age 86, is remembered by his fellow astronauts as an explorer, hero, artist and friend. (NASA)
May 28, 2018

– The death of Apollo moonwalker and artist Alan Bean elicited tributes by his fellow astronauts, on and off the planet.

Bean, who died on Saturday (May 26) at age 86, was the fourth NASA astronaut to walk on the moon, the second to command the first U.S. space station, and the only artist to document his firsthand experiences visiting another world.

"We honor and remember a fallen colleague and hero who helped advance the human species out into space," wrote Expedition 54 flight engineer Drew Feustel from on board the International Space Station. "Alan Bean inspired us all to be better, to be humble, and to strive to share the story of exploration and give our lives meaning."

"Rest In Peace Alan. Ad Astra," Feustel said on Twitter.

Bean was selected with NASA's third group of astronauts. The 1963 class included Bean's future Apollo 12 crewmate Richard Gordon, who preceded him in death in 2017; Buzz Aldrin, who preceded Bean to the moon on Apollo 11; and Walt Cunningham, who preceded Bean to space as a crew member on Apollo 7.

"Alan and I have been best friends for 55 years, ever since the day we became astronauts," said Cunningham, adding his comments to a statement released by Bean's family.

As Apollo 12 lunar module pilot, Alan Bean became the fourth man to walk on the moon in November 1969. (NASA)

As the head of the Skylab branch for the Astronaut Office, Cunningham worked with Bean, who flew as commander of the second crewed flight to the orbital workshop.

"We've never lived more than a couple of miles apart, even after we left NASA. And for years, Alan and I never missed a month where we did not have a cheeseburger together," Cunningham said. "We are accustomed to losing friends in our business, but this is a tough one."

Bean was the last living member of the Apollo 12 crew. In addition to Gordon, he was preceded in death by mission commander Pete Conrad in 1999. There are now only four of the twelve Apollo moonwalkers still alive.

"My first close contact with Alan Bean began in August of 1969 with his last four months of preparation as the lunar module pilot for Apollo 12," said Harrison Schmitt, the first and only geologist to walk on the moon on Apollo 17. "Alan and Pete were extremely engaged in the planning for their exploration of the Surveyor III landing site in the Ocean of Storms [and] this commitment paid off with Alan and Pete's collection of a fantastic suite of lunar samples, a scientific gift that keeps on giving today and in the future."

After returning from the moon and leading the then record-setting 59-day expedition aboard Skylab, Bean left NASA to devote his time to painting what he and his fellow Apollo moonwalkers experienced.

"He'd call me to ask about some detail about the lunar soil, color or equipment he wanted to have represented exactly in a painting," recounted Schmitt. "Other times, he wanted to discuss items in the description that he was writing to go with a painting. His enthusiasm about space and art never waned."

"He was my superhero of spaceflight and art," said Nicole Stott, who followed Bean's example by becoming an artist after spending more than 100 days in space. "Thankful for his mentorship, friendship, and beautiful smile."

Alan Bean in his art studio in Houston. (Smithsonian/Carolyn Russo)

Before Bean left NASA, he led the operations and training for the next generation of astronaut candidates. His role in that regard continued beyond his 18 years with the space agency.

"When I was in fourth grade, I wrote a letter to Alan Bean. I was so thrilled when he wrote back! It was a life-changing moment that inspired me to become an astronaut," wrote Andrew Morgan on Twitter. NASA just assigned Morgan to fly to the space station in July 2019.

"America lost another legend," said Bob Hines, a member of NASA's 22nd class of astronaut candidates selected in 2017, in a tweet. "Alan Bean was a great American with an unmatched sense of humor, a desire to share lessons with future generations, and a talented artist to boot!"

"We've all benefitted from his wisdom. He will be missed," wrote Hines.

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Astronauts' remembrances of Alan Bean

Additional tributes to the late moonwalker shared on social media

He was a true hero of the program and an amazing person. His paintings will live forever as a tribute to his talent.

— Al Worden
Apollo 15


Alan Bean, the most extraordinary person I ever met, has passed. He was a one of a kind combination of technical achievement as an astronaut and artistic achievement as a painter. He was a great man and this is a great loss.

— Mike Massimino
STS-109, STS-125


As a girl who grew up with passions for spaceflight and art, Alan Bean was my hero. I feel fortunate to have met him, a kind, gracious and humble man; a true role model. I am heartbroken to hear of his passing.

— Karen Nyberg
STS-124, Soyuz TMA-09M, ISS 36/37


RIP Alan Bean. Thank you for letting me stand upon your shoulders.

— Clayton Anderson
STS-117, ISS 15/16, STS-131


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. Fair winds and following seas, Captain.

— Scott Kelly
STS-103, 118, Soyuz TMA-01M, ISS 25/26, TMA-16M, ISS 43-46


What a loss. Just a few months ago, he passed on lessons learned to a gathering of astronauts: "Find something to admire and care about in every team member" (Said he learned this from Alan Shepard).

— Ellen Ochoa
STS-56, STS-66, STS-96, STS-110


Godspeed, Alan Bean.

— Mike Foreman
STS-123, STS-129


It's hard to put into words how much Al Bean impacted my life for the better. He did so much more than walk on the moon. God bless your family in this tough time.

— Victor Glover
NASA astronaut


I'm saddened to hear of the loss of a great explorer, astronaut and artist Alan Bean. Thank you for your service to the world and for capturing beauty of space exploration in your art. God Speed Alan Bean!

— Ron Garan
STS-124, Soyuz TMA-21, ISS 27/28


What an incredible loss to the Universe. Thank you Alan for being a great explorer in so many spaces. Godspeed on your journey.

— Leland Melvin
STS-122, STS-129


The space community loses Apollo 12 astronaut Alan Bean, 4th man to walk on the moon. A true hero... El mundo pierde a Alan Bean, el cuarto astronauta que camina en la luna. Un real héroe.

— Jose Hernandez


An exceptional human being and explorer has left us. His contributions to humanity are countless. His kind and humble spirit will be missed forever. R.I.P., Alan Bean. Sincere condolences to his loved ones.

— Koichi Wakata
STS-72, 92, 119, ISS 18/19/20, Soyuz TMA-11M, ISS 38/39


CAPT Al Bean, thanks for your humility, sincerity, and inspiration. You’ll be missed, you touched the lives of not just our Astronaut Candidate class but of generations before and after us. Thank you, we hope to continue the proud legacy you left for us NASA.

— Raja Chari
NASA astronaut candidate