Alan Bean, Apollo 12 moonwalker, signing copies of “Painting Apollo”
7/16/09 11:00 AM at National Air & Space Museum at Gallery 211. Washington DC.
Bean was born in Wheeler in the northeastern Texas Panhandle. He is of Scottish descent. As a boy, he lived in Minden, the seat of Webster Parish in northwestern Louisiana, where his father worked for the Soil Conservation Service. Bean graduated from R. L. Paschal High School in Fort Worth, Texas. He received a bachelor of science degree in aeronautical engineering from the University of Texas at Austin in 1955. At UT he was a member of Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity. After a four year tour as a fighter pilot assigned to a jet attack squadron in Jacksonville, Fl., he trained as a Navy Test Pilot where his instructor was his future Apollo 12 Commander Pete Conrad. He was awarded an honorary doctorate of science from Texas Wesleyan College in 1972, and was presented an honorary doctorate of engineering science degree from the University of Akron (Ohio) in 1974.
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Bean was selected by NASA as part of group 3 in 1963. He was selected to be the backup Command Pilot for Gemini 10 but was unsuccessful in securing an early Apollo flight assignment. He was placed in the Apollo Applications Program in the interim. When fellow astronaut Clifton Williams was killed in an air crash, a space was opened for Bean on the back-up crew for Apollo 9. Apollo 12 Commander Conrad, who had instructed Bean at the Naval Flight Test School years before, personally requested Bean to replace Williams.
Bean was the lunar module pilot on Apollo 12, the second lunar landing. In November 1969, Al Bean and Pete Conrad landed in the moon’s Ocean of Storms—after a flight of 250,000 miles and a launch that included a harrowing lightning strike. Bean was the astronaut who executed John Aaron’s famous “Flight, try SCE to ‘Aux'” instruction to restore telemetry after the spacecraft was struck by lightning 36 seconds after launch, thus salvaging the mission. They explored the lunar surface, deployed several lunar surface experiments, and installed the first nuclear power generator station on the moon to provide the power source. Dick Gordon remained in lunar orbit photographing landing sites for future missions.
Bean & Art
Bean resigned from NASA in June 1981 to devote his full time to painting. Many of his paintings reside on the walls of space enthusiasts. He said his decision was based on the fact that, in his 18 years as an astronaut, he was fortunate enough to visit worlds and see sights no artist’s eye, past or present, has ever viewed firsthand and he hopes to express these experiences through the medium of art. He is pursuing this dream at his home and studio in Houston.
Alan Bean’s paintings include “Lunar Grand Prix” and “Rock and Roll on the Ocean of Storms”. He is the only artist in the world to use real moon dust on his paintings. When he began painting, he realized that keepsake patches from his space suit were dirty with moon dust. He adds tiny pieces of the patches to his paintings, which make them unique. He also uses the hammer used to pound the flagpole into the lunar surface to texture his paintings.
- Apollo: An Eyewitness Account (with Andrew Chaikin) (1998)
- Mission Control, This is Apollo: The Story of the First Voyages to the Moon (with Andrew Chaikin) (forthcoming, 2009)
- Alan Bean: Painting Apollo (forthcoming, 2009)
Bean’s in-flight Skylab diary is featured in “Homesteading Space,” a history of the Skylab program coauthored with fellow astronauts Joseph Kerwin and Owen Garriott and published in 2008.08.