Alan Bean, 4th man on moon, is dead at 86

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Alan Bean, the fourth man to walk on the moon and an accomplished artist, died Saturday at age 86.

Four years later, Alan Bean orbited Earth for close to two months as commander of Skylab Mission II, where he was joined by fellow astronauts Owen Garriott and Jack Lousma.

"As all great explorers are, Alan was a boundary pusher", said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine in a statement that credited Bean with being part of 11 world records in the areas of space and aeronautics.

In all, Bean logged 1671 hours and 45 minutes in space. "[There's] no telling what that costs per minute to be on the moon - millions and millions of dollars - so you wanted to make every one of 'em productive".

A decade later, Bean told me that his brain must have been wired differently from the norm for astronauts.

"Alan was the strongest and kindest man I ever knew", she said. "My boss asked if I could make a living off art, and I said I didn't know, but I had to find out".

"It looked like courageous people did that". Other times, he wanted to discuss items in the description he was writing to go with a painting. "I thought maybe I could learn to be, so that appealed to me".

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He was among the elite group NASA chose for its third group of astronauts in 1963, having served as a test pilot in the US Navy.

Bean walked on the moon in 1969 during the Apollo 12 mission and commanded a crew on the Skylab space station in 1973.

His decision in 1981 to give up his NASA career to become a full-time artist surprised some of his colleagues. During that trip, Bean became the fourth man to walk on the moon, after Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and his commander, Charles "Pete" Conrad.

Sadly, NASA has reported that Astronaut Alan Bean has died. His paintings, inspired by space travel, featured lunar boot prints as well as small pieces of his mission patches which were stained by Moon dust.

"He was a one-of-a-kind combination of technical achievement as an astronaut and artistic achievement as a painter", said Massimino, who flew on two space shuttle missions. "I was fortunate to be the first artist with the opportunity to be in the center of the action to capture what I saw and felt, and bring it back to earth to share with generations to come".

Associated Press Science Writer Seth Borenstein contributed to this article.

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