Alan Bean, U.S. astronaut and moonwalker, dies in Houston at 86

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Former Apollo 12 astronaut and painter Alan Bean, who was the fourth person to walk on the moon and later turned his passion for space into art, has died.

A statement released by NASA and family members says Bean died Saturday in Houston after a short illness. He flew into space on his first mission in 1969 aboard the Apollo 12 on NASA's second moon landing.

Bean returned to space in 1973, as the commander of NASA's second crewed flight to the U.S.' first space station, Skylab. The astronauts on that mission spent 59 days in space, a record at the time.

He spent 31 hours on the moon deploying surface experiments with commander Charles Conrad and collecting 75 pounds (34 kilograms) of rocks and lunar soil for study back on Earth, according to a statement from NASA.

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Working from his home in Houston, Mr. Bean strove for accuracy in presenting the astronauts' gear and the prevailing light, but he used color liberally in place of the black, gray and white of the lunar terrain and the skies. He died Saturday at Houston Methodist Hospital.

Bean was born in Wheeler, Texas, in 1932 and educated at the University of Texas - graduating in 1955.

Bean retired from the Navy in 1975 and from NASA six years later.

Alan Bean's "Reaching for the Stars" graces the wall of the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame.

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Bean was a Navy test pilot before being selected to become an astronaut in 1963.

Leslie Bean, Alan Bean's wife of 40 years, said her husband was the strongest and kindest man she ever knew.

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

Massimino continued, "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". Anyone who had the opportunity to know Alan was a better person for it, and we were better astronauts by following his example. "And for years, Alan and I never missed a month where we did not have a cheeseburger together at Miller's Café in Houston", Cunningham said.

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Alan Bean is survived by his wife Leslie, a sister and two children from a previous marriage.