Alan Bean: The Artist Astronaut

A whole host of unlikely Cold War characters – from spies to presidents – have had secret ambitions to become artists. And that also includes astronauts.

Alan Bean was a NASA astronaut for 18 years during the height of the Cold War and was the fourth person to walk on the Moon during the Apollo 12 mission in November 1969. Upon retiring from the space agency in 1981, Bean started a second career as a painter, taking inspiration for his art from his otherworldly experiences.

Bean has also thought up a canny way to increase the popularity (and price) of his paintings: by mixing in genuine Moon dust. Lunar soil is notorious among astronauts for its ability to get everywhere, and Bean recovered a rich supply from his space suits. He adds tiny particles to his paintings, while also employing the hammer he used to pound the US flag into the lunar surface and a bronzed Moon boot to add texture to his canvases.

On Alan Bean’s website you can find out more about his art and even buy your own Moon dust painting (if you have deep pockets).

Images: Top – Astronaut Alan L. Bean on the lunar surface, pictured by Pete Conrad. 19–20 November 1969. Bottom – Alan Bean, The Spirit of Apollo, 2010. Textured acrylic with moondust on aircraft plywood.

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