Washington, May 27 (IANS): Alan Bean, a NASA astronaut who journeyed into space two times and, as part of the Apollo 12 mission in 1969, became the fourth man to walk on the moon, died at the age of 86 at a hospital in Houston, the US space agency announced.
NASA announced his death on Saturday night noting that he had fallen ill during two weeks of travel, reports The Washington Post.
Bean was born on March 15, 1932, in Wheeler, Tex., and completed high school in Fort Worth.
He was a Navy test pilot first and later joined NASA’s astronaut corps in 1963.
He made his first voyage into space on November 14, 1969, four months after the historic first landing on the moon of Apollo 11, commanded by Neil Armstrong.
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.
After more than four days of flying through space, Conrad and Bean settled onto the lunar surface on November 19, landing in a broad plain called the Ocean of Storms.
Four years later, Bean returned to space as commander of the second mission to the Skylab orbiting space station. He and two astronauts, Jack Lousma and Owen Garriott, stayed aloft for 59 days, conducting a variety of biological experiments to test the body’s ability to endure the physical and psychological demands of prolonged space flight.
In the late 1970s, Bean became chief of the astronaut training programme, preparing for the first shuttle mission, which was launched in 1981, The Washington Post reported.
He soon retired from NASA and devoted himself to painting, a longtime hobby that had become an overriding passion.
His paintings have been exhibited at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington and have sold to collectors for well in excess of $100,000.