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Alan Bean, who has died aged 86, was the fourth of the 12 Americans to walk on the Moon; four years later he commanded the three-man crew who spent 59 days aboard Nasa's Skylab space station, which preceded the International Space Station. NASA issued a tribute to Bean, who had recently fallen ill while travelling in Indiana.

Reflecting on his experience, Bean once said: "I remember once looking back at Earth and starting to think, Gee, that's lovely.' Then I said to myself, 'Quit screwing off and go collect rocks.' We figured reflection wasn't productive".

She said that Bean, a native Texan, died peacefully while surrounded by his loved ones. Six years later, he piloted the lunar module on Apollo 12, the second moon landing mission, and walked on the moon's surface with fellow astronaut Charles Conrad.

In later life he became an accomplished artist, producing paintings that were inspired by space.

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Bean's passing means only four of the 12 Apollo moonwalkers are still alive, with a string of lunar landing anniversaries due to begin next year. Shortly after takeoff, the rocket was hit by lightning but the crew was able to continue the scheduled flight to the Moon.

In all, Bean logged 1671 hours and 45 minutes in space.

NASA said Bean was one of the third group of astronauts named by NASA in October 1963. Later, he was in line to fly the first shuttle flights. He died Saturday at Houston Methodist Hospital.

Following his retirement from NASA in 1981, Bean dedicated his time to depicting space exploration through works of art. "About half the astronauts thought it was a midlife crisis or something". Bean told a 1998 NASA documentary.

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He later described how complex and risky the mission had been: "It was more science fiction to us, I think, than it was to the average public". His first comment: 'Can you earn a living at that?'.

"I just say it how I think it, even though other people will say, 'That's weird, ' because it's from the other side of the brain", he said.

His former colleagues became admirers. They included a re-creation of Armstrong securing an American flag in the lunar dust; Mr. Bean standing with Conrad on the moon, looking toward Earth; Eugene A. Cernan riding in a lunar rover during the Apollo 17 mission, and the Earth rising above the moon. "You can't tell how far away things are because there's no atmosphere to bounce the light around". He earned a degree in aeronautical engineering at the University of Texas, then was commissioned as an officer in the Navy. NASA/Handout/File Photo via Reuters ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY.

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