HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Astronaut Alan Bean will be remembered in history as one of the few men who walked on the moon.
He translated that experience into art that was shown in galleries and fetched high prices, which became a new calling after his career as an astronaut.
The 86-year-old Apollo 12 lunar module pilot and Skylab astronaut passed away today at Methodist Hospital in Houston.
He had fallen ill two weeks ago before a speaking engagement in Indiana. A press release said his family was by his side at the hospital until the end.
Bean was a former navy test pilot who was accepted into the astronaut program, and made the cut, along with Walter Cunningham.
"We became friends," said Cunningham today. "Years ago, he would do those paint-by-number paintings, filling in the boxes. I'd see him doing that at his home."
Bean had an explorer's spirit, an engineer's mind, and a passion for art. "He was driven by it," Cunningham said.
The Texas native and former Boy Scout lived not far from Cunningham, who regarded him as his best friend. They shared the same age, and their birthdays were only one day apart.
Bean had a ritual, he told us on the 40th anniversary of the first moonwalk. "I get up in the morning, exercise, and then come down to my studio and paint," he said. "All I think about is my family and my painting. It used to be airplanes and spaceships."
"He was painting every day until two weeks ago," said Cunningham. "The one he focused on lately involved 3-D techniques. I believe 100 years from now that Alan Bean will be remembered as the greatest space artist of all time."
Cunningham, who was a lunar module pilot on Apollo 7 said he and Bean would have lunch at least once a month, meeting at a local café for cheeseburgers. "I'll miss him," he said.
Loved ones and friends remember life and legacy of Alan Bean
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