NASA Astronaut Alan Bean dies at 86

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Astronaut Alan Bean poses for a portrait in front of a mockup of NASA's lunar module in advance of his Apollo 12 moon mission in 1969.

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.

Mr. Bean returned to space in July 1973, when he commanded a three-man flight to the orbiting space-research station Skylab, the forerunner of the International Space Station. Bean and crew member Pete Conrad explored the moon's surface and conducted experiments while Richard Gordon orbited overhead in the command module, looking for prospective landing positions for future moon missions.

The astronaut spent a total of 1,671 hours and 45 minutes in space.

"Alan Bean once said 'I have the nicest life in the world, '" National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Administrator Jim Bridenstine said in a statement.

After leaving NASA, the former astronaut devoted himself to painting. "A native Texans, Alan died peacefully in Houston surrounded by those who loved him".

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

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

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

NASA said Bean was one of the third group of astronauts named by NASA in October 1963. Anyone who had the opportunity to know Alan was a better person for it, and we were better astronauts by following his example.

Bean left the Navy in 1975, but did not leave NASA until 1981. "I think a lot of it just had to do with it looked exciting". I am so grateful he was my mentor and friend, and I will miss him terribly.

In the four decades before he died, he spent his time making Apollo-themed paintings featured canvases textured with lunar boot prints, made using acrylics embedded with small pieces of his moon dust-stained mission patches.

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