Alan Bean—Apollo XII astronaut, commander of Skylab II and artist—was born in 1932 in Wheeler, Texas. In 1950 he was selected for an NROTC scholarship at the University of Texas at Austin. In 1955, he was commissioned an ensign in the United States Navy.
Holder of eleven world records in space and astronautics, as well as numerous national and international honors, Alan Bean has had a most distinguished peacetime career. His awards include two NASA Distinguished Service Medals, the Yuri Gagarin Gold Medal and the Robert J. Collier Trophy. As part of the Apollo XII crew, he became the fourth of only twelve men ever to walk on the Moon. As the spacecraft commander of Skylab Mission II, he set a world record: 24,400,000 miles traveled during the 59-day flight. He has also launched himself successfully into a new career as an artist.
When he wasn't flying, Bean always enjoyed painting as a hobby. Attending night classes at St. Mary's College in Maryland in 1962, Alan experimented with landscapes. During training and between missions as a test pilot and astronaut, he continued private art lessons. On space voyages, his artist's eye and talent enabled him to document impressions of the Moon and space to be preserved later on canvas. His art reflects the attention to detail of the aeronautical engineer, the respect for the unknown of the astronaut and the unabashed appreciation of a skilled painter.
The space program has seen unprecedented achievements and Bean realized that most of those who participated actively in this adventure would be gone in forty years. He knew that if any credible artistic impressions were to remain for future generations, he must paint them now. "My decision to resign from NASA in 1981 was based on the fact that I am fortunate enough to have seen sights no other artist ever has," Bean said, "and I hope to communicate these experiences through art."
Bean's book Apollo: An Eyewitness Account which chronicles his first-person experience as an Apollo astronaut in words and paintings was received with critical and popular acclaim upon its publication in 1998.