Test Pilot, Astronaut, Artist
Alan L. Bean became the fourth man to walk on the Moon and is the only artist to have visited the Moon. Born in Wheeler, Texas, he nurtured his boyhood dreams of flight with model airplanes that adorned his bedroom ceiling. “Airplanes,” he recalls, “were the last things I would see before falling asleep at night.” Bean won a Naval Reserve Officer’s Training Corps scholarship and earned an aeronautical engineering degree from the University of Texas in Austin. Upon graduation in 1955, he received his Navy commission and began flight training. By the early 1960s, Bean had become a top test pilot at the Naval Air Test Center on Patuxent River, Maryland. At the same time, he took up painting and attended evening art classes at a local college.
Upon learning the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) was searching for pilots to fly to the Moon, Bean immediately applied. NASA accepted him into the astronaut program in 1963. He served as lunar module pilot on Apollo 12, landing on the Moon on his first mission in November 1969 and spending almost eight hours total in two moonwalks. Bean returned to space for 59 days in 1973 as commander of the second Skylab mission. After 18 years as an astronaut, he resigned from NASA in 1981 to dedicate his life to the art of painting his memories of Apollo.
In 2009, the National Air and Space Museum hosted a one-man show with more than 50 artworks by Alan Bean in the exhibition, Painting Apollo: First Artist on Another World. In an impressionistic style, Bean captured the spirit of Apollo with lunar landscape scenes, portraits of fellow moonwalkers, and views of Earth from space. His works offer glimpses of a world on which only he and 11 others have walked. The Museum’s collection also includes his spacecraft, spacesuits, and other items from his two missions. Through his art, Bean left a legacy unlike any other, one that invites the viewer to see the Moon through his eyes.