Moonwalking astronaut-artist Alan Bean dies at 86


United States astronaut Alan Bean, the fourth person to walk on the moon, has died, his family announced in a statement released by NASA.

According to a statement from NASA, Bean died at Houston Methodist Hospital in Texas after suddenly falling ill while in Fort Wayne, Indiana two weeks ago.

Bean was the lunar module pilot of Apollo 12, which made the second moon landing, in 1969. He went into space a second time in July 1973, as the commander of the second crewed flight to Skylab, the U.S.' first space station.

After Apollo 12, Bean commanded Skylab's second crew on a record-setting 59 day, 24.4 million flight, generating 76,000 images of the Sun to help scientists understand its effects on the solar system.

He spent 31 hours on the moon during two moonwalks, deploying surface experiments with commander Charles Conrad and collecting 75 pounds of rocks and lunar soil for study back on Earth. "He was the love of my life and I miss him dearly", Bean's widow, Leslie Bean, said in a statement.

After leaving NASA, the former astronaut devoted himself to painting. Alan Bean died Saturday at the age of 86.

Born March 15, 1932 in Wheeler, Texas the future moonwalker earned a degree in aeronautical engineering from the University of Texas in 1955.

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

Bean was 86 years old.

Walt Cunningham, who flew on Apollo 7 and called Bean his best friend of 55 years, said "we are accustomed to losing friends in our business but this is a tough one".

"I remember once looking back at Earth and starting to think, 'Gee, that's attractive.' Then I said to myself, 'Quit screwing off and go collect rocks.' We figured reflection wasn't productive", Alan Bean was quoted as saying by People magazine in 1981.

His Apollo-themed paintings feature canvases textured with lunar boot prints and embedded with small pieces of his moon dust-stained mission patches.

"But what was truly extraordinary was his deep caring for others and his willingness to inspire and teach by sharing his personal journey so openly". And for years, Alan and I never missed a month where we did not have a cheeseburger together at Miller's Café in Houston.

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