Alan Bean, Apollo 12 Lunar Module Pilot

Thanks to an amazing effort by all involved with Space Lectures, Alan Bean was in Pontefract on Saturday 12th October 2013 to give a talk about his experiences as a Lunar Module Pilot for Apollo 12, which made him the fourth man to walk on the Moon.

Alan Bean and myself, SpaceFest IV

On this 4 day trip to the UK, Space Lectures arranged for Alan Bean to captivate 600 school children at Birkdale School, and he also visited two other schools.

Alan Bean at Birkdale School, Sheffield (credit: @Space_Lectures)

Many people gathered for dinner with Alan Bean on Friday night, and were able to have a couple of minutes with him as he graciously signed autographs.

The Saturday talk started with a 5 minute video highlighting key Apollo moments.

“Space Lectures is proud to introduce the fourth man on the Moon, Captain Alan Bean!”

Alan: “Thank you very much for coming today. Nice to be with you here in the UK. I love this weather, I come from Houston Texas, where its hot. I don’t even think of this as rain, this is just a little sprinkle. Nice to be with you in paradise and in the garden of Eden, but I’ll say more about that later.”

“I definitely feel as I’ve driven around the country, I’ve been here since Thursday, I have to say you have a garden of Eden to live in. Its green, theres beautiful trees, animals in the fields, I keep wondering whats growing over there, its as if you could grow enough food for the whole world here. Its amazing, its a beautiful place, I’m just glad to be with you.”

“I live in Houston Texas with my wife Lesley and our two doggies (picture on slide). I have a son and a daughter, they’ve grown up and 8 grandchildren now. 2 people become 8, this world is filling up.”

“I flew Apollo, I flew Skylab and i was backup for a Russian mission. I was training to be a shuttle commander but looked around and there were a lot of people in training. I started painting in night school when I was a test pilot, just because I thought it would be interesting and fun, I never imagined I’d do it as a profession. The more I did, the more I liked it. Didn’t have a lot of time. I said “If I could do that, then I could leave a legacy of stories and images that would (otherwise) be lost forever, for example, we wish that Magellan had taken some artists along with him, then we could have seen a lot more of his great adventure going around the world than we do now. He picked too many fisherman, he should have picked at least oneartist, then we would have known what they all looked like.”

“To be honest a lot of my astronaut friends when I told them were surprised because they thought I was going to fly the shuttle and stay there, like John Young, and I probably would have done if I didn’t have this other calling. Half thought it was a good idea, half thought it was a mid-life crisis.”

Some came up and said “Alan, do you really think its worth spending your life being an artist?”. I’ve discovered its got a lot to do with left brain and right brain thinking. I didn’t think about it as a pilot but since becoming an artist there is a lot of difference between a good left brain thinker like a pilot/astronaut as you need to be systematic, live by logic, testing, that sort of thing. Right brain people think more holistically, just think differently. All of us have some of each, most people you can identify by how they think and do, as to which they have. As I said, I didn’t think much about that at first but when I got to be an artist, if I was home, and I was working on my income tax for example (left brain job) – if I’d been painting, I’d pick up the phone for the same person calling and after talking for 30 minutes I’d say “who is this, what are you talking about?”. Its hard when you go back and forth to shift, its different. Al Shepherd, good example of a pure left brain, some other guys, didn’t think art was worth a thing. Some other guys, they liked it. So anyway thats what I decided to do.”

“What I hope to do today is tell you a few stories about the training I had to go to the Moon, and tell you a few stories and show you some of my paintings about that experience on the Moon.”

“If people work together, they can do things like go to the Moon. We all have things in our own lives which we need our best knowledge to solve. Every flight to the Moon has to start somewhere. Every achievement of every impossible dream has to start somewhere. For me it started here at the Johnson space centre. They came to teach us to be astronauts because flying high performance airplanes is closest thing to flying spaceships. We’re the men and women that know how to guide things in 3D, read instruments, not pay attention to our inner balance, you have to learn these things. When you start off being a pilot you’re not very good at it naturally. As the years go by, you learn, or you quit. To those to whom its fun, they stay, they like it, they learn to do it better and better. Thats why they come to us, Al Shepherd, John Glenn, Deke Sleyton, everyone that came to be an astronaut (at that stage) came from there (flight school).”

“One of the things that worried me when I got there, I had never done anything extraordinary before. I’d never done an impossible dream or even tried one. I thought ‘when I get there, I’ll be surrounded by genius’ who have done impossible dreams before and they’ll teach me, and then I’ll fly the spaceship’.”

“In meetings, I soon noticed the guy/woman at the front isn’t any smarter than I am! Thats scary! Because I knew I couldn’t do it, and I wondered if they could. I was surrounded by these individuals on a daily basis, one of the best things about being an astronaut. Even though they weren’t extraordinary they believed that working together we could all achieve the impossible. I never heard anyone complaining that we couldn’t do it, because the test failed yesterday we need to give up, because of Apollo 1 we should quit. Everyone was saying wow thats a mistake we made, what can we do not to make that mistake again?”

“So we worked hard not to make that mistake, but all of us are humans. Regular people, but are you willing to pay the price? I knew enough from college calculus that I couldn’t figure out which way to point the rocket at the Moon. Its traveling around the Earth at 23,000 mph, and and the Moon and Earth are travelling around the sun at 66,000mph, I knew I couldn’t do that. But other people know how to do that. I knew how to fly a spaceship. Figure out how to fly it, figure out how to do the job on the Moon when we get there.”

“So they come to us, they say Bean, we know theres 1/6th gravity on the Moon, we want to find out how much energy you expend doing this exercise, so we can put the right amount of water in your backpack, right amount of coolant, calculate the sun angle as we need to know how much heat from the sun in order to keep your spacesuit cool. We keep our bodies in a narrow range of temperatures else we don’t work. So they put me in a spacesuit like this and said we’re going to lift it up so you have 1/6th of your weight, then you’ll run around so we can measure all these quantities in you, and you can see how you can bend over and do other jobs.”

“I can remember the first day we tried it – it lifted the suit but it didn’t lift me. (Picture). ‘We can’t do this, you’re going to have to let me down’. I identified the pressure points, where they were ok and where they were bad. A couple of days later I get back in the suit, do the same thing, not padded good enough. We knew that to achieve an impossible dream from where we were right then was going to take a lot of attempts, look at it, try to learn from it, as a result of this idea I thought would work, why didn’t it, whats our new idea?”

“So thats how we worked. They even filled the suit with water one time thinking ‘that’ll float Bean in there and that won’t be uncomfortable”. Doesn’t work standing up. Might have done lying down but they didnt do that. Finally we got it padded where it was sort of working. It was ok, wasn’t perfect. Right after we said “thats as good as we get here”. Then we tried it underwater.”

“We finally learnt enough so that when we got to the Moon we were familiar enough with everything, it was good enough. They said “we’re going to teach you what to do on the Moon”. We said “we already know”. Our idea: put up the flag, talk to the president, maybe demonstrate how high we can jump, pick up a few rocks and get back in. Their response: ‘If you’re going to be an explorer, you’ve got to explore, get to the Moon, make scientific observations that are useful to scientists back on Earth, that can advance understanding of the Moon, the Earth, whatever’.

“But all we think is up there is rocks, dirt and craters. We already know what those are?  No, you’re going to have to learn about rocks, what shapes they are, how they got there, what shapes the craters are. “Wait a minute, we’re not interested, that sounds like what geologists to do, we’re airline pilots”. By the way, I thought many times on geology training they did this the wrong way and should have got geologists. I realised that if we wanted to be explorers we needed to change our attitude, it took a few days to quit complaining about the idea. “How can we learn this as quickly as we can and be good at it?”. Then we went to class, just as you do at college, I probably have a doctorate in geology now, I didn’t want it then but it was part of the job. Half the time people put out a new computer program and you don’t want to learn it. But then, if you want to move forward, you have to stop and learn it. That attitude I’ve noticed.”

Credit: Todd Howard

“After classwork, labwork, we started going to places that scientists thought were like the Moon, eg Hawaii, volcanic fields. If you took that surface and dug some craters in there and got some dust out of your pencil sharpener, a million pencil sharpeners, get that graphite out there, spread it over the top a foot or two deep, and you’d have the Moon. You’d have blue sky and stuff, but if you ignore that, then it was just like the Moon.”

“We thought we’d find rocks 4.6 bn years old on the Moon, craters that were 2bn year old or 1bn year old. We didn’t find that, what we actually found on the Moon was that everything was 3.5 billion years ago or older. So there hasn’t been a lot going on for the last 3.5 billion years. No new craters, no new rocks, nothings going on up there, believe me. Its very quiet, not like this wonderful Earth.”

Credit: Todd Howard

“We didn’t work all the time, as you can guess. Pete Conrad, the guy I went to the Moon with, and Dick Gordon, he’s been here (in Pontefract) a couple of times, he was in the command module. General Motors said “you guys are getting your pictures in the paper a lot, if we loan you cars, maybe you’d get your picture in the paper with our cars’. We thought “Thats a good deal!” – so they came to us and said “Alan, you had a red corvette last year, we’ll take that back when we give you your new car. And I’d say “Well I’ll have a blue one this year”. They also gave my wife a car for the year, which we didn’t have to pay for, or pay insurance for. Just put the gas in it, or if you went down there, they’d give you the gas! It was great. One year, my wife said “I always wanted a yellow convertible when I was in high school”. So she got it, it was fun. So a lot of nice things happened while we tried to get ready for this impossible dream.”

“We wanted to go to the Sea of Tranquility as soon as we can. We don’t know when we can get there but the president wants us to get there by the end of the decade, so we can’t leave this until Dec 1969, so we’ll try it in July, then we can try again in September, and if we don’t make it we can try November. 3 chances to make it by the end of the decade. Also we didn’t know how hard it would be, so we took 3 extra crews, we thought we would lose more people in going to the Moon than we did. We lost Apollo 1 and we almost lost Apollo 13, so we weren’t far off – we had 3 extra rockets, Lunar modules, etc. So we did the best we could by July.”

“I wonder if we’ve done it good enough. I wonder if we’re going to make it”. Neil Armstrong thought he had a 90% chance of getting there and back alive, but thought he only had a 50% chance of landing on the Moon”. He probably didn’t think of the “Small step for man, giant leap for mankind” in advance – he probably landed, looked at Buzz and thought “I better think of something to say, because I’m sure the world wants me to say something.”

Credit: Todd Howard

“Here’s a painting I did, because when he’s (Neil) heading for where he wants to land, he sees all these boulders, and says uh oh, I can’t land there, so he decides to go a little bit further on. When I painted this, I put a little star up here, thats where he actually landed. He overflew it, and that became the Tranquility Base “Houston, Tranquility Base” and all that stuff. So we were amazed, and happy, this was amazing to us, maybe more so, because we knew how difficult this was. Its almost like me saying “I wish I was president, because I could do a better job”, but I don’t know what hes doing. So this was more risky and amazing to us, to see. I remember when I was there in mission control, looking up at Neil and Buzz, Neil was my office mate, he was in the same office, we both had the same secretary, so we talked a lot. All of a sudden he shows up on the Moon! 5 days ago he was in my office or something. it was amazing. Anyway here’s a painting I did.”

Credit: Todd Howard

“There’s Buzz, putting up the flag. They had difficulty getting it in. He said “So what did you do?” Neil: “I tipped it back, like this, til the
centre of gravity and the curtain rod were over the hole, then I knew if I
could balance it with no wind or anything up there, I could get away from it
and it would stay that way. The minute they got away from it, he said I’m not
going near it again. On Earth the particles around it on a microscopic level
would roll out of the way of the flag staff as it pushed in. We get up there none
of that wind/rain has been around, so all the dirt is sharped edge and angular,
like coral, not round at all, and it wouldn’t get out of the way to push the
flag staff in. We didn’t think about it enough but anyhow we found a solution.”

Credit: Todd Howard

“Here’s a painting I did of Buzz, following a famous photo of Buzz. Then I
went over to the training photographs of Neil and did that painting (First Men).
I had this done for an exhibition, on
2009 anniversary of Apollo 11. Neil and Buzz were there and came over to look
at the exhibition. I was talking to them, they liked it. A guy says “I notice
you’ve got a watch here, on Neil’s glove. “I said, yes, that’s where he wore
his watch”. The guy said “He didn’t wear a watch on the Moon”. I looked at the
training photos and I said “go over and ask Neil”. He goes over to Neil and says “Al painted a picture of you, and we’re trying
to figure out if you wore your watch on the lunar surface or not.”. He said “How
did Al paint it?”. “With the watch on.” And Neil said “That’s the way it was!” That’s
the big difference between Neil and Buzz by the way, Buzz would not have said
that! When I got the painting back, I painted out the watch, so the painting now
doesn’t have the watch at all. I had 3 different paintings now and took the
watch out.”

“I’m the only guy that knows this stuff. So this is the gold standard for
what happened, in my paintings. Claude Monet can show up but he doesn’t know
these things that are part of it, he doesn’t have the slightest idea what that
is, and why its there. He had no idea that Neil put his hands under there, or
whats in there, or why the tabs are like this, or these on the outside. They’re
not, because when you lean over to put your boots on and the tabs out here, you
can’t reach it. All these little things that don’t mean anything unless you’re
using it.”

“We’re celebrating, we’re ready to go. September, we’ve been to the Sea of
Tranquility. They landed in the area within a 4 mile radius around where the
point was. They came to us and said you’re not going there, you’re going to the Ocean
of Storms. We said “we just learnt to do this in 7 years.” “No, we did that, we’re
going to where Surveyor landed 33 months earlier, we’re going to prove that
Apollo can land near something. They said “we’re going to do it”. We said “You
can’t do that in 2 months”. They said “Ok you can have 4 months” (as we’d
already achieved the goal before the end of the decade).”

“We did the best we could, and now they wanted us to be even better than we
are. They told us not to worry about it. You as the team, and Mission Control,
can find a way to make a pinpoint landing on your mission.”

“We didn’t believe them. We’d been flying it and didn’t think we could come
close. But they had confidence in this team. Lets get our heads on straight and
working on it. We worked on it as our primary goal for 3 months. For the first
2 months we’d get in the simulator with mission control and they wouldn’t work.
We tried a lot of things, then in a meeting a guy at the back said “I think I’ve
figured out how it might work”. What we’re going to do: the problem of not
landing in the right spot is because we don’t know exactly where you are when
you come along the Moon the last time, what we’ve got to do is track by two
antennas at once, so time it so Earth turns and faces the Moon in a way that we
can track you from Goldstone in California and in Australia. Then tracking you
using a Doppler we can figure out how fast you are and we can reprogram you to
land at the real spot. We won’t be able to do that of course until the engine
burned and you’re on the final descent.”

“Mission control said we don’t have way to take data from two deep space
sites at once, even if we did cannot digest the data and Doppler it. Don’t have
a way to convert it to a phantom landing point that’s more accurate. We said ‘We
don’t want to go in the computer when the engines burning, we’re liable to
crash, we don’t want to do that’.”

“We all thought about it a while, finally the leader said: “Mission control,
do whatever you need to get data in from two sights and Doppler, and we’ll send
up the link”. Then pointed to us “figure a way to get the data in your computer
without screwing it up, so you don’t hit the Moon”. That was the NASA way, that’s
what humans can do. 3-4 weeks before flight we tried it in the simulators, it worked pretty
good. Pete said “well, we’re going to find out if that simulator worked.”

Credit: Todd Howard

“Up on the arm into the Saturn rocket, it was like something that was alive,
an animal, it wasn’t at all like a machine. It was weird, but powerful. Huge
amount of weight of fuel was used to get to the Moon. That’s why we don’t go
back. Theres still no better way to get there than these engines and you can’t
improve them much, they are close to the theoretical limit. That’s one of the
reason people don’t rush off to buy rockets to go to the Moon.”

“See that ice fall off there? When that was shaking I wondered if our
spacecraft could stay together”. That’s what the Earth looked like as we flew
away, the projector is stretching it (lopsided photo!). I thought “wow, that
thing is leaving us, we’re not going to be back for 10 days, the Earth and Moon
are going around the sun at 66,000 mph. Hopefully Mission Control know where we’re
going, they’ve got to point us where to go, and come back at a quarter of a degree
angle back into the Earth’s atmosphere, don’t want to burn up or bounce out.  Mission control had to make calculations and
so on that were more life-depending than we did. They had to figure out what to

“We’d been training in simulators all along, I was looking out one side and
Pete the other. There were so many more craters than I’d ever seen in any
place, I thought theres no place to land. It scared me so much I could feel my
heart rate go up, I was feeling frightened, and couldn’t do my job if I was
scared, so I just looked at my instruments, did something on the computer, said
something to Pete, calmed myself down. Looked out again and wasn’t quite so
scared. Adapted on the way down, this was scary to me but it seemed that way to
me, we’re all different.”

“We were suppose to land on the near edge of the crater with Surveyor in it,
so he took over as Neil had done and we went to the far right edge. Here’s a
painting of me taking my first step, took a while to get my balance, in that
1/6thg you don’t push down so much. Up there when the weight was on
my feet 1/6th, my sensors weren’t tuned into that. I felt like when
I watched my son and daughter grow up and they didn’t know how to stand, and
they’d use the couch to stand, sway as they couldn’t get control, then sit down
on their diaper! So I held on.”

“When I became an astronaut, underwent a year of training, they gave me a pin
which was silver with a star on it, and 3 little rays into orbit. I wore it on
my coat a lot and on my lapel, since 1964. Here I am, its in my pocket right
here. First thing I did was reach it out, walk over near the side leg, heres a
painting I did called “Lone Star”. The Moon is so bright that with reflected
light, you can’t see reflected light out there, you can’t see stars. Here I am,
throwing that pin, here’s Pete. When I look at the Moon at night, I get to the
equator, think about that crater, I know where it is, and think about that
little pin, which is going to be up there for millions of years, just as shiny
as it was that day, until maybe someone picks it up and brings it back to
When you go into space you get a gold pin, and that’s the one I wear now.
When I picked out the silver one, I made very sure it wasn’t the gold one!”

“Running along the moon (picture), fun to do. When I would take a leap, with
that light gravity, you can’t get good traction. It’s a little bit like being
on ice. You don’t slip exactly, but its not like Earth, you need heavy gravity
to run. I could run but not very fast. So I pushed off with my left foot but
feel my calf relax, which I would never feel on Earth, so I felt I could run
forever. My legs and muscles didn’t have to work very hard.”

“Some day they will run the Olympics on the Moon. Not possible, not in your
grand childrens lifetime, but someday they will have Olympics on the earth, and
they will also have the Olympics up there, and it wont be in a suit like that.
You take a dome that big on a mission, then another, then you can pressurise it
and live in your shirt sleeves. Then build a tunnel between the two, like in
Antarctica, then build a dome that’s as big as a football stadium or even
bigger. All these things take time to do but we’ll eventually do them because
they’re fun to do. They’ll do Olympics up there, maybe the World Cup too! All
these things will happen in future generations, its just going to take time.
People like to relate the advance of spaceflight like the advance of the
airplane. Not true, for several reasons. People visualise that if you could
build an airplane to carry people you could make money. If you could do it in
your garage, and carry mail, that would be good.
If you try making a rocket ship, theres nothing I can do up there to make
money. With airplane they can fly me here, rent me a car, lots of money to be
made in airplanes. Doesn’t seem to be that we can do that in spaceflight for a
long long time. Things will take a long time to get going in spaceflight, for
the reason I just said. You’ve got to have the same amount of fuel to get to
the Moon. I could go buy an old world war aeroplane for 50 bucks, fix it up,
fly people around for money. Space will take a lot longer.”

“Here we are, Pete’s showing me where I can put the experiments down. Then I
look over on the tabloid rack, and theres a picture of me there. Uh oh, they
think dinosaur bones found on the Moon? However, we did want to find something
like that up there, an ancient relic, stack of diamonds. Pete said “Lets take
an arrowhead. We’ll put it right there, stone arrowhead. We’ll look over here,
talk about that crater, then we’ll do this”. About a minute after that we’ll
hear from Mission control “Point that at your feet”. Thank god we didn’t do it,
I love scientists but they would not have been amused, if they would’ve let us
back in. They might’ve gone to Mission Control ‘don’t send them back at 0.25
degree entry, lets see how they do at zero degree, sailing off to somewhere

“Working together”, that’s good (painting). The number one thing I learned in my 18 years at NASA. I’m
in the simulator, practicing to go to the Moon. We’ve just made a landing, reset us into orbit so we can all
do it together. They’re saying to Pete “That flight engineer who was talking to
us this morning, he thinks so differently, maybe he isn’t a good team member”.
Pete says “Well y’know, maybe its you that’s not a good team member”. I
remember being shocked, I didn’t know what to say, I was insulted, I’d been
working with this guy 2-3 years thinking I was a good team member. He said “You
don’t even know the first rule of being a good team member”. Sure I do, “Loyal
to the team leader? Focussed on the goals?”. Pete: “no”. Bean “Ok, what is it?”.
Pete “Look, if there were 400,000 Al Bean’s we couldn’t get to the Moon. If
there were 400,000 people that thought like Pete Conrad we couldn’t get there
either. If you want to be a good team member/leader, you’re going to have to
find a way to admire and care about the other members of your team that you
work with”. I said “You’re crazy”. That meeting this morning, 30 people there,
I knew 15 by name, I admire them, they contribute, maybe another 10-12 that are
at these meetings, I know they’re important but I don’t know who they are. But
theres 2-3 at every meeting that I don’t admire, they wait til the end of th
meeting then bringing up something, the meeting goes over, we end up talking
about something else, I don’t admire those guys”. Pete “That’s your problem,
right there, you have not found a way to care about all your team members”.  Bean: “You’re wrong”.

“I kept thinking about this for a couple of days. Got to thinking about
astronauts in the office that I thought were very effective, more effective
than me. Jim McDivitt, he was one of the guys I thought was very effective. I
thought back on meetings I attended with him. He seemed to know everyone. Of
the 10-15 people we worked with, he knew them all and held them in much
respect, people bringing things up at the end of  ameeting, he’d listen to them, get things
solved, just like earlier. I realised this was maybe a problem I’d had my whole
life. I soon found if there were people I didn’t know or didn’t like, I took
them to lunch, and started liking them. Reason I didn’t like them is perhaps I didn’t
know them. It was me all along. It made my career do a lot better.”

“SkyLab we achieved 120% (?) of our goals, more than any other NASA mission,
thanks to what Pete said. My number 1 teammate is my wife, maybe number 2 is my
dogs or probably my children. I’ve got to find a way to like and admire them
all the time.  When I think something
like “she didn’t take the package to the post office yesterday” I think “I’m
not being nice about my number 1 team mate”, and the problem is mine. Forget everything
I’ve said today, if you can go home today and say “I’ve got to find a way to
care about it and admire my team mates, whether at work or my family, I don’t
have a problem any more with my kids or family, I don’t think about a problem,
I think about things about them that I really admire. You can have a really
good life and provide leadership this way.”

“Al Shepherd on Apollo 14 hit this gold ball. I went to Pete and said “why
didn’t we think of that?”. Pete said “we don’t play golf”. As an artist I did
this painting, Pete throwing me a football, if we could’ve thought of that, and
shown it on TV, then every year on the superbowl they would show it and they
would like it. On Apollo we didn’t do enough things that were fun for humans.
We were locked into the science. We didn’t do anything that wasn’t engineering
and science. If we were going back I’d say “we’ll do engineering and science as
best we can, but 5% of the time we will do things humans will like, golf balls,
soccer balls, things that will be fun”. A Japanese astronaut going up to the
ISS came over, looked at the pictures, my guess is they will go….(his phone goes off) my wifes calling! Its not suppose to do that. I told
her to call me at 6pm! But anyway, I admire her anyway!! I won’t mention it by
the way. Thank you.”

Credit: Todd Howard

“I’m going to show you how I do a painting. Lets say I know a story that I
want to be preserved. So I think about it, and think I’ll build my models,
carved their heads and other stuff, and put in the position that I think the
painting ought to be in. THeres no way to get the shadows and everything
correct without doing it this way. That’s me fallen down over there on Pete’s
leg, how much shadow? Pete is picking me up. You fall down on the Moon from
time to time because you’re backing up pictures from time to time, or you trip
on a rock. No big deal as you fall slowly under light gravity. Takes more
energy to get up. First time Pete ran over to pick me up, so strongly, that we nearly
both fell backwards.”

“So I’m going to tell the story of the second time he comes
to pick me up. Heres a panel with modelling paste, a moon boot, the hammer I had
on the Moon, theres marks in it. I wanted Moon dust to put in the painting but
they didn’t give us any rocks. Looked over at the patches on my suit, I’ve got
the ones from SkyLab too, they were in plaques. Well, my Apollo ones are dirty,
my Skylab are nice and clean. And I thought no, they’re dirty with dust from
the Moon – I DO have Moondust. If I cut up the patches there will be Moondust
in them. They gave me the ones from my backpack too (didn’t have as much dirt).
If I’d known I was going to do this I would’ve got Pete to scrub some off me.
Here’s some foil from the command module hatch and dust from the heat shield. Someone
“A lot of the charred heat shield fell off, we vacuumed it up, we can send it
to you”.  Painting – lifts him up with
one finger – titled “He aint heavy, hes my brother”.

Credit: Todd Howard

 “I knew when I left NASA I’d draw a picture of Dick Gordon on the Moon. I always
imagined people at Mission control saying “whats he doing down here? He’s suppose
to be up in the command module”. This is just a fantasy. Is there anybody out
there? I don’t know.  Belief doesn’t come
from anywhere except in your own heart. If you look inside yourself well
enough, you will find out whats right for you. People may have been born next
door but they are different. Your children are different, your wife, husband,
are different. How am I doing on time? (checks watch)”

“Let me tell you one story, leadership of Pete
Conrad. His job is to run primary computer and fly it. Mine is to run backup
computer and charts, electrical system and stuff. I’m busy working. We’d done
this many times in the simulator, Pete: “You look like you’re working hard over
there, Al”. Bean: “yes I am, getting this chart done”. Pete: “You’re missing
the flight, we’re up to date with Mission control, why don’t you look out the
window and enjoy it”. We were just in a place where we could see Dick Gordon up
there as a bright light. So I’m looking out the window and he says “Al, would
you like to fly this thing?” Bean: “Sure! Wait a minute, we’re going to get off
course here, we’re right on course to rendez-vous with him”. Pete: “Don’t worry,
I’m going to call up a delta v prog that will measure whatever you do, then we’ll
zero it all out again”. Well that’s a good idea. Except, the people in Mission
control are not going to like it. Pete said: Don’t worry, we’re on the backside
of the Moon, they’ll never know!”. “So, fly around, put it back, all that stuff, we’re getting closer, I think,
boy, for some guy to think of that, for me, is just something.”

“We get home and
I tell this in the debriefing to all the other astronauts there, all the
commanders of other missions. Not a single one of them ever let their LMP fly.
So not only did he think about it, even though they heard about it, they
didn’t do it. That’s the difference with Pete Conrad. Pete was the best
astronaut I ever met, not because I flew with him. Neil Armstrong, Dick Gordon,
John Young, I doubt Neil Armstrong would’ve ever told me anything to improve my
leadership, he would’ve never said to me “Alan you’re screwed up, you need to
change”. One of the blessings of my life has been working with Pete Conrad.”

“When I was on the Moon, around the Moon, going back to earth, when I think of Earth I think it’s the Garden
of Eden. You know, we’d only been gone 10 days, but its like an alien coming here,
we never saw anything except the 3 of us and the 2 space ships. That’s all that’s
going on. That’s all that’s going on on Venus, Mars, Jupiter, maybe they have a
sand storm on Mars but so what? We are living in the Garden of Eden. I’ll tell
you this, since I’ve been home, I’ve not once complained about the weather, I’m
just glad we’ve got it. If it snows today, I like it. If a sandstorm comes
along, I like it. When I got back I went down to a shopping centre just to see
people, bought an ice cream cone, just watched people go by. We’ve never seen
anything in the universe like this. We’re special, we live on Earth. We’re on
the way home, we’re looking out the window, Pete says “You know, we’re so
small, the command module is so small no one can see us even with the best
telescopes. If there are people on Mars or Jupiter, they would be invisible.
However, we can look out into the universe and see the sun, moon, stars. We’re
smaller on a universal scale than grains of sand on an Earth scale”. I floated
down to sleep thinking somethings wrong with that.”

Credit: Todd Howard

“Next morning, I say “lets go look out the
windows. There’s the sun, if we had the right computer program we’d know where
the Sun’s going to be 10 years from now, and theres the Earth, we know where it’ll
be 100 years from now, limited by velocity and gravity, same with the Moon,
stars. But, as far as we know, the only thing in the universe that’s not
limited like that, has unlimited impossibilities, don’t know where it will be
in a week, 5 years or 100 years from now. We might be small but we have been
given a great gift in this universe because we don’t have any limits placed on
us except for the ones we place on ourselves. Except for saying “I am not
limited by anything except what I tell myself is a limitation”. I think about
this all the time, when I meet someone and they’re not doing well, or they’re not trying hard, or
not changing what they’re doing to try to do something. I don’t give them much
advice but I think ‘you are a special creature, why aren’t you trying?”

“We’re all for some degree reaching for our own star. Everyone has dreams,
something they want to do, something they want to say. We can do this. Apollo
is a perfect example of people that had never done anything impossible before,
people working together, concentrating, even if you fail, you can do these
impossible things, you can do these things yourself. Next time you’re having
frustrations, remember Al Bean said ‘we can find a way, lets try something, if
it doesn’t work, lets try again, lets use our brain, we can solve these

“Anyway, I’m glad to have been with you, I may have talked a little long, I
get carried away sometimes. I feel I’ve been given such a great gift in my life,
to go to the Moon with Pete Conrad and these guys, I’m thankful every day.”

“Let me leave you with 3 things:
      Light to thy path.
      Wind to thy sails.
      Dreams to thy heart.”

“Thank you very much for inviting me here today.”

Credit: Todd Howard

3 thoughts on “Alan Bean, Apollo 12 Lunar Module Pilot

  1. Brilliant record of a fascinating day… It was really nice to see so much of Alan's artwork punctuating the talk of his NASA career. It really added a human angle to his stories and experiences and showed what a genuinely nice ‘down to earth’ guy he is. Thanks for blogging the event Jane.

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