Alan Bean, the fourth man to walk on the moon, has died at the age of 86.
According to a statement from Bean’s family, the astronaut was “surrounded by those who loved him” when he “died peacefully” on Saturday at the Houston Methodist Hospital in Houston, Texas. Two weeks earlier, he suddenly became ill while traveling in Fort Wayne, Indiana.
“Alan was the strongest and kindest man I ever knew. He was the love of my life and I miss him dearly,” Alan’s wife Leslie, to whom he was married for 40 years, said in the statement.
Bean flew into space twice, first in November 1969 as the pilot of Apollo 12, when he became the fourth man to walk on the moon, nabbing the honor behind Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Pete Conrad, who served as the commander of Apollo 12. Four years later, Bean also served as commander of NASA’s second crewed mission to the Skylab station, where he and two other crew members orbited Earth for a then-record breaking 59 days.
In 1981, after logging more than 25 million miles of spaceflight, he retired at the age of 49 as head of the NASA astronaut training group to become an artist.
“Most of my colleagues were really surprised,” he told PEOPLE at the time. “My boss asked if I could make a living off art, and I said I didn’t know, but I had to find out. It has become my dream.”
Much like his former career as an astronaut, Bean spent his years as an artist creating detail-oriented moonscapes, which could be tricky to get just right.
“It all looks the same there,” he explained. “You can’t tell how far away things are because there’s no atmosphere to bounce the light around. The surface has much more brown to it than photographs show. And the sky is always black.”
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“We’re saddened by the passing of astronaut Alan Bean. The fourth person to walk on the Moon, he spent 10-plus hours on the lunar surface during Apollo 12. Bean was spacecraft commander of Skylab Mission II & devoted his retirement to painting,” NASA wrote on social media Saturday.
NASA also went on to share a short video tribute to his momentous career.
We're saddened by the passing of astronaut Alan Bean. The fourth person to walk on the Moon, he spent 10+ hours on the lunar surface during Apollo 12. Bean was spacecraft commander of Skylab Mission II & devoted his retirement to painting. Family release: https://t.co/bX8eXNQlSq pic.twitter.com/NJPQULjGlw
— NASA (@NASA) May 26, 2018
We remember Apollo 12 astronaut Alan Bean, who walked on the Moon in 1969, commanded the second Skylab crew in 1973 and went on in retirement to paint the remarkable worlds and sights he had seen like no other artist.
— NASA (@NASA) May 26, 2018
In addition to his wife Leslie, Alan is survived by his sister Paula Stott and two children from a prior marriage, daughter Amy Sue and son Clay.