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Sal remembers Jack

 

"Today my son took his first parachute jump!"

 

Sadly, Astronaut Alan Bean died today.

I am warmly reminded of him because of an incident back in the day my husband Jack was raking leaves on our lawn in Fort Worth.  A gentleman came walking down the street and stopped to chat. They fell into conversation about their children. Jack said something like, "I have a son who is a paratrooper and he took his first jump today. I am so proud of him."  To which the gentleman replied, "I am proud of my son, too. Today he walked on the moon."  It was Alan Bean's father.

Alan Bean, 1932 - 2018

The astronaut who turned his lunar experience into art

When astronaut Alan Bean informed superiors in 1981 that he was leaving NASA to become a full-time artist, many of his colleagues were agog. Bean, who became the fourth man to walk on the moon as part of the 1969 Apollo 12 mission, could have easily pursued a lucrative career in the private sector. Instead, he devoted the rest of his life to creating detailed paintings that drew on his own experiences, as well as those of other Apollo astronauts, hoping to render in art what it felt like to wander the lunar surface. “You have to live your dream even if other people think it’s screwed up,” Bean said. “About half the astronauts thought it was a midlife crisis or something.”

Raised in Fort Worth, Bean “was fascinated by model planes as a youngster,” said The New York Times. After earning a bachelor’s degree in aeronautical engineering from the University of Texas, he entered the Navy’s test pilot program, taking art classes in his off hours. Selected for NASA’s astronaut corps in 1963, Bean “made his first voyage into space on Nov. 14, 1969, four months after the historic first landing on the moon of Apollo 11, commanded by Neil Armstrong,” said The Washington Post. Five days after takeoff, Bean and mission commander Charles “Pete” Conrad Jr. descended in their lunar module from a capsule being flown by astronaut Richard Gordon. Bean and Conrad “were practically giddy” during their 31 hours on the moon. They collected rocks, tossed a Frisbee, and took steps 10 feet long. “It’s really nice moving around up here,” Bean reported. “You really hop like a bunny.”

“In 1973, Bean commanded the second mission to Skylab, the first U.S. space station,” said Reuters.com. His three-person crew spent 59 days in low-Earth orbit, a record at the time. When he left NASA to pursue painting, Bean joked to colleagues that he’d get a job in a fast-food restaurant if his new career didn’t work out. But his paintings—which had an “authenticity in lighting and color that only an eyewitness could provide,” and sometimes a sprinkling of actual moon dust—would end up selling for as much as $175,000 apiece. “I think of myself not as an astronaut who paints,” Bean said, “but as an artist who was once an astronaut.”