Fourth US Astronaut to Walk on Moon Has Died

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The three astronauts aboard Apollo 12 were Charles "Pete" Conrad Jr., the mission commander, Richard F. Gordon Jr., the command module pilot, and Bean, whose duty was as lunar module pilot.

Bean, 86, a former U.S. Navy test pilot who became one of only 12 people ever to set foot on the moon, died at Houston Methodist Hospital, his family said in a statement released by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

"We will remember him fondly as the great explorer who reached out to embrace the universe".

Bean spent a total of 69 days in space, including 31 hours on the moon. "[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". "I mean, can you think of anything better?"

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

He then attended the US Navy's Test Pilot School and accumulated more than 5,500 hours of flying time in 27 different types of aircraft.

"A lot of things I think about come from the right side of my brain", he said in 2007.

"It looked like fearless people did that".

"When Alan's third career as the artist of Apollo moved forward, he would call me to ask about some detail about lunar soil, color or equipment he wanted to have represented exactly in a painting. I thought maybe I could learn to be, so that appealed to me".

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In 1973, Bean was spacecraft commander of the second manned mission to Skylab, the first USA space station.

He retired from Nasa in 1981 and carved a successful career as an artist.

With Bean's death, only four moonwalkers are still alive - Buzz Aldrin, Dave Scott, Charlie Duke and Harrison "Jack" Schmitt.

Astronaut Alan Bean poses for a portrait in front of a mockup of NASA's lunar module in advance of his Apollo 12 moon mission in 1969.

Mike Massimino, who flew on two space shuttle missions to service the Hubble Space Telescope, remembered Mr Bean as "extraordinary". "He was a one of a kind combination of technical achievement as an astronaut and artistic achievement as a painter".

Alan Bean, pictured in 2007, walked on the moon and later became an artist who created Apollo-themed paintings.

Bean is survived by his wife Leslie, his sister Paula Stott, and two children, Amy Sue and Clay.

Associated Press Science Writer Seth Borenstein contributed to this article.

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