Alan Bean, 4th man on the moon, dies aged 86

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After Apollo, Bean commanded the second Skylab mission in 1973 - orbiting the Earth for 59 days. Bean told a 1998 NASA documentary.

Reflecting on his experience, Bean once said: "I remember once looking back at Earth and starting to think, Gee, that's lovely.' Then I said to myself, 'Quit screwing off and go collect rocks.' We figured reflection wasn't productive". "We're really here. That's the Earth up there.' And I said it two or three times to myself".

When Bean, a former Navy test pilot, left NASA in 1981, he drew on a long-standing interest in painting to become a full-time artist, creating images of the era when science fiction shifted into reality.

Born in Texas in 1932, Bean graduated the University of Texas with a degree in aeronautical engineering in 1955 and went on to the Navy Test Pilot School.

During his time in Attack Squadron 172, he was selected as an astronaut for NASA. "I thought maybe I could learn to be, so that appealed to me".

In later life he became an accomplished artist, producing paintings that were inspired by space. He flew into space on his first mission in 1969 aboard the Apollo 12 on NASA's second moon landing.

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

"Alan Bean was the most extraordinary person I ever met", said astronaut Mike Massimino, who flew on two space shuttle missions to service the Hubble Space Telescope, in a statement.

"We're saddened by the passing of astronaut Alan Bean". That "fantastic suite of lunar samples" is "a scientific gift that keeps on giving today and in the future", Harrison Schmitt, Apollo 17 lunar module pilot and the only geologist to walk on the moon, said in the statement.

His Apollo-themed paintings feature canvases textured with lunar boot prints and embedded with small pieces of his moon dust-stained mission patches. "He was a one of a kind combination of technical achievement as an astronaut and artistic achievement as a painter". NPR wrote that Bean was able to look back on NASA's six manned moon landings through the paintings that he completed over a span of more than four decades. "He said he hoped to capture those experiences through his art".

Bean is survived by his wife Leslie; two children from a previous marriage, Amy Sue and Clay; and sister Paula Scott.

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