On Nov. 14, 1969, launched on top of a Saturn V rocket, Bean and his two Apollo 12 crewmates, Charles "Pete" Conrad and Richard "Dick" Gordon,
were about a minute into flight when their booster was struck by lightning, twice. The electrical discharge knocked out their power and garbled the
telemetry streaming to Mission Control. Flight controller, John Aaron, recalled a test from a year earlier that produced a similar data pattern and
suggested the crew take "SCE to AUX," which would switch the spacecraft's signal conditioning equipment (SCE) to its backup. Bean remembered the
switch — which was located over his shoulder — from an earlier training simulation.
"They call[ed] to get me to throw a switch, which I did," Bean recounted in a 1998 NASA oral history. "I didn't remember what the switch was for,
either ... but it was giving them telemetry data." The spacecraft recovered and was able to continue on to the moon.
Five days after their launch, Bean and Conrad left Gordon in orbit about the moon on the command module "Yankee Clipper" and landed the lunar module
"Intrepid" in the Ocean of Storms on the moon.
Bean also left something of his behind. Stepping away from Intrepid to the lip of a large crater, Bean tossed his silver astronaut pin, a symbol worn
by those who had yet to fly in space. (He would replace it with a gold pin after returning to Earth.). "It'll be there for millions and millions of
years," wrote Bean in 2000, "or until some tourist finds it and brings it back to Earth."
And here is where conspiracy theorists find something to grab on to. Looking out at the desolation of the Moon and vastness of space, he states,
“"There that thing is! Look at that!" The official story is that he was looking at the Surveyor 3 robotic lander, which NASA had sent to the moon
in 1967. Others say differently.
As decades passed, Bean became an aspiring artist. While at the Navy Test Pilot School, he took a fine art class. Bean followed the advice of a
friend and decided to leave NASA and try his hand at becoming a professional painter focusing on the things he saw and felt while exploring the moon.
Bean further set his creations apart by embedding small pieces of his moon-dust-stained mission patches in his acrylic paint and texturing his canvas
using the sole of a replica lunar boot and the head of a geology hammer he used on the moon. "Every painting that I do, I put that texture, get those
moon boots and all that other texture. Then I sprinkle a little bit of the patch in there so that symbolically there's dust from the Ocean of
Bean's art was also published in two collections: "Apollo: An Eyewitness Account By Astronaut/Explorer Artist/Moonwalker" (Greenwich Workshop
Press, 1998) and "Painting Apollo: First Artist on Another World" (Smithsonian Books, 2009), both of which were written with Andrew Chaikin.
For his service to his country, Bean was awarded Distinguished Service medals by the Navy and NASA. He shared in the Robert J. Collier Trophy in 1973
and Robert H. Goddard Memorial Trophy in 1975 as part of the Skylab team.
Bean was inducted into the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame in 1997 and the National Aviation Hall of Fame in 2010.
Bean was the last living member of the Apollo 12 crew. He was preceded in death by Conrad in 1999 and Gordon in 2017. With Bean's death, only four of
the twelve Apollo moonwalkers are still alive: Buzz Aldrin (Apollo 11), David Scott (Apollo 15), Charles Duke (Apollo 16) and Harrison Schmitt (Apollo
He is survived by his wife Leslie, a sister Paula Stott, and two children from a prior marriage, a daughter Amy Sue and son Clay.