Alan Bean – fourth man on the moon

Alan Bean is a really lovely guy. He’s witty. He’s fun. He’s funny. He’s impish, which seems an odd word to use about a moon-walker. He was and still is a painstaking professional, but I like the fact that some of the guys on the moon liked to play about and kick back a bit. The humour is only part of it though: he was changed by walking on the moon, changed in profound ways it seems, but he wears that profundity lightly and with grace.

Alan Bean Lecture

There were a few hundred of us in a shabby, battered, over-lit, over-heated school hall. It was grubbily mundane. I liked that though because it threw the focus of the evening firmly on the man and what he had to say. I wonder what he made of it.

He spoke for about an hour about our place in the universe, about NASA and the Apollo missions, about the fact that the first man on the moon could have been Pete Conrad or David Scott, Thomas Stafford or Gordo Cooper, James Lovell or John Young, that NASA simply pushed for the next step and the next step each time, and the fact it was Neil Armstrong and Apollo 11 was hapenstance. He spoke about the training they did, learning to become geologists and rehearsing all the tasks of each of the EVAs in Iceland, Mexico and Hawaii. He spoke about training to be in 1/6th gravity and what is is like to be there. He suggested that the Olympics should be held on the moon, simply because it would be such fun for the athletes to jump around in 1/6th G. He spoke about fear and how he handled it, about being so very far from home. He spoke with enormous generosity about his fellow astronauts. He told us about the work NASA is doing, on a shoestring, to try to get us back there.

The Apollo 12 team were close, closer than many of the Apollo crews perhaps, and one gets the feeling that Pete Conrad and Alan Bean in particular, as well as being supreme professionals, were … naughty. The painting which moved me the most was Bean’s fantasy of the three of them, Pete Conrad, Dick Gordon and himself, together on the moon. Dick Gordon was the most experienced pilot of the three and never landed on the moon – instead he flew the command module which was their only way back. In Bean’s picture, the three of them are posing for an official portrait on the surface of the moon – a fantasy which allowed his friend to share the experience. If you look closely you can see that Bean is holding up two fingers behind his friend’s head, as goofy pals have done since people started taking snapshots.

Conrad, Gordon and Bean

His art is interesting. It is strongly narrative and highly figurative; chocolate box art telling specific stories. He strives to convey emotion as well as to record events, which is difficult when you cannot show faces and when all the space-suits look the same. His colours are becoming more impressionistic as he develops as an artist; the skies are softer, the moonscapes redder and browner as he conveys the emotions of the event. But what he portrays is – well – alien. Our planet has an atmosphere and is covered in vegetation, so we are used to landscapes in pretty colours. Turner experimented with painting night scenes and Whistler experimented with compositions in black and grey, but most artists deal in light alone, not light and darkness. I suspect that Bean would seem to be a better artist if his subject matter were not visually so bleak. But it is a matter of astonishing serendipity that one of the dozen test pilots who walked on the moon had it in him to transform the experience for us into art.

Alan Bean

Bean spoke of the wonder of being here; the wonder and beauty of our day-to-day world. He said that he had come back and never complained about the weather again. He walked on a different world, it was an experience which he has spent the past 37 years coming to understand, he describes it (amongst other things) as “fun”, but while he was in space it seems he was agonisingly homesick too.

He took questions, and distracted himself into answering them fully and at length. We queued for a while for an autograph, the one I went with and I, but the hall was due to close at 10:00 and the queue had not moved at all – I believe it was because Bean was chatting away at length with the first few people who reached the table.

Of all the moon-walkers, I am glad to have seen Alan Bean and heard him speak.

(Apologies for the quality of the photos – it was a large hall and I was using my mobile phone. However they are important to me, which is why I have posted them here.)

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64 responses to “Alan Bean – fourth man on the moon

  1. Although Armstrong is known for the line “It’s one small step for [a] man”, the diminutive Conrad issued the less than historic lines “Whoopie! Man, that may have been a small one for Neil, but it’s a long one for me.”, when stepping off the lander.

  2. A very nice post and interesting too and so full of admiration for Bean. It must have been a great evening. Wish I had been there to listen to him. He sounds like a very special man.

  3. Wow. Thanks for sharing that with us.

  4. Very well said! I’ve always liked Alan Bean’s paintings, there’s a real warmth in them. I got the feeling that he saw that extraordinary feat as an experience of more than just the high technology, that it was coloured by the people he shared the experience with.

    You might also be interested in a film done of the Apollo program, “In the Shadow of the Moon”, which interviews 9 of the men who’ve visited the Moon.

  5. Nice post. Thank you.

  6. Thanks for posting the report Aphra, it sounds like a special evening with a special man.

  7. That sounds like Conrad, Woodpigeon. If I’d known to ask, I’d have asked Bean what Conrad had said!

    Irene, it was great good fortune and an immense privelege to be there.

    Iota, my pleasure. I was exploding with excitement for days.

    Spacecadette, welcome to my blog. I’ll keep my eye out for that film. Thank you for recommending.

    J3n – thank you.

    Phil, I wish I’d told you in time for you to be there. I do feel bad about that.

    AB

  8. Ah well these things happen.
    In the Shadow of the Moon should be being released in the UK on friday (2nd Nov) at a few cinemas, you’ll have to wat a few weeks for it to turn up nearer you though AB.
    I guess eventually it’ll be on TV as it was a Film 4/Discovery co-production.

  9. mathew appleyard

    I go to this school and I think that the hall is fine and the purpose of the evening was not to show what our school hall is like and it’s rather disappointing you’d say that.
    you gay. πŸ™‚

  10. i go to the school and i think that the hall is fine you shabby smelly old man get a life and leave our hall alone dont come back!

  11. Hi im a student at this school and first off those comments about the hall are uncalled for and disgusting second i want to say that he is a very nice man interesting too i filmed a interveiw with him chatted to him had pictures ect and he seems down to earth and intelligent although he does tend to answer questions at great lentgh which could be veiwed as good or bad. I hope you revise your comments on the school. and if its that bad why did you come?

  12. I just so happen to be a media student at this school and i don’t like the way you slandered our hall, true it may not be the best place in the world but “shabbily mundane” is a very harsh comment. I filmed the presentation in that hall and an interview later in a conference room at the school. We are very offended by the comment concerning the school hall and i suggest you revise it quick-smart!

  13. Why call our school shabby, mundane,over-heated and overly-lit? You’re not achieving anything by doing so. So take your unneeded criticism of Carleton High School and go die.
    Thanks.
    P.S
    The school is amazing and better than most. Just be thankful that Alan Bean even visited.

  14. This is about my school and I think the comments about our hall are rather uncalled for you loney farmer.
    I’m on the phone to the ghostbusters at the moment they’ll have their way with you! gay πŸ˜€
    I think you should learn you facts laddie before you make a (frankly crappy) blog entry about it.
    We’re forming an army against you.
    Mathew is not amused as you may see in above comments, he is literally fuming at the side of me. He’s very angry. you can almost taste it. in the air. mm. yeah, he’s angry.
    kapow.

  15. I go to this school too but i missed alan bean night 😦

  16. You mean old man. Go perish in da pits of hell. YeahhhhHHHHH.

  17. get to bed before she slaps your bottom and takes your lollipop off you.

  18. I AM PHIL AND I DON’T LIKE WHAT YOU SAID ABOUT OUR SCHOOL. GO SUCK A DONKEY.

  19. who the hell do you think you are saying this school is shabby, over – heated and over – lighted this school is one off the best in the country so go die of aids

  20. is gay πŸ˜€

  21. Oy listen to your mam and do as she says before i chuck you in the sea.

  22. milton has aids. not me, mighty phil.

  23. never got told when it was on

  24. dannii nn jamiieeee

    HiiYAAA,, WEEE R CHiiLDREN @ CARLETON…..NN WEEEE DNT LYK D WAY DAT YOOOH DiiST R SKWL….WEEEE FiiNK DAT YOOOH R A VRY NASTY MAN 4 SAYiiN ALL DAT ABRT R HALL….!!!….OUR SKWL MYT NT B D BEST BT IT CERTAiiNLY AiiNT AS BAD AS YOOOOH MED iiT OUT 2 B….!!!….ii FEEL SORRY 4 D SKWL YOOOH WENT 2,, AViiN A PUPiiL LYK YOOOH DERE….!!!….YEH SUK ON DAT :)….!!!….YOUR ATTiiTUDE 2WRDS OUR SKWL iiS WAK NN ii FiiNK YOOOOH SHUD GOOOOO SUK ON SUM BiiG ROTTON BRWN SKIND BANANAS’…..LURVE YOOOH ((nOt)) …..<3……C-YA MUPPET…!!!!…..XxXxX

  25. PHILL WOZ ERE BBZ 2K8

  26. Hi, I am sorry about them lot but you should not call our school shabby. Well i was the guy who told them about you having a pciture of your school but i did not start the spamming.
    I now say, how dare you.

  27. big black momma

    i wud lyk sum sweet luvin frm dis skewl. not u tho. coz u av aids. n u iz a big fat cock wank.

  28. hello there young one you need to do has your mam and dad say cos if you don’t i’ll hit you with my rhythem stick

  29. I AM DA REAL PHIL. U IZ GAY.

  30. UNKNOWN MAN WOZ ERE!!!!!

  31. gtfo of our school.
    u scum.

  32. HIYAAA BBZ.
    UR GAY.

  33. gay!!!!

  34. you are a f***ing retard who fuck his dead mother!!!!!!
    you kids are so harsh like seriously lay off the guy!! :@

  35. Hola…

    I agree with what has been said above. The comments you made about our hall were pretty harsh…

    Just be thankful that you had the chance to meet Mr. Bean (Alan that is…).

    What did you expect of our hall? Okay, it’s nothing special, but it’s not the worst of places…

    Quote:
    “There were a few hundred of us in a shabby, battered, over-lit, over-heated school hall. It was grubbily mundane. I liked that though because it threw the focus of the evening firmly on the man and what he had to say.”

    I have some things to pick out:
    ‘Over-lit’ – We’ll be sure to turn the lights off next time… πŸ˜‰

    ‘…battered…’ – What do you expect from a hall that has been there for over 40 years and has had thousands of students pass through it during its ‘life’

    ‘Over-heated’ – We’ll be sure to turn the heating off next time, and let you all freeze… Maybe that would add to the atmosphere of such an occasion? ‘Simulate the Moon’s climate..?’

    ‘I liked that though because it threw the focus of the evening firmly on the man and what he had to say.’ – If you liked it that much, why are you adding the comments in your blog? xD It can’t have ‘thrown the focus on Alan’ very well could it? As you obviously have something to say about the venue for the evening (our school hall…)
    I have nothing against Alan Bean or indeed the event, I just thought it was fair that if you make a comment about our school, I have the right to add my opinion to it.

    Muchas gracias. =]

  36. Hi guys.

    I’m sorry that I offended you with my remarks about your school, and I’m impressed that you all defend it so strongly.

    It’s obviously a very good school if you all feel so strongly about it. It was dumb of me not to realise that someone who knew the school might find my entry. I didn’t mean that the hall was bad. It’s years since I’ve been in a school hall and it was considerably better than the last ones I was in. I was just surprised, because any university or company in the country would be proud if Alan Bean accepted an invitation to speak. The fact he came to your school shows how cool your school is, and how cool he is too.

    I’m impressed with your comments so I’m not removing any of them (not even the ones that are physically impossible), but I’m not changing my post either. Your comments tell the truth, but so does my post. Fair’s fair. BUT – and this is really important – your comments here and the event with Alan Bean certainly prove no-one should judge a book by it’s cover or a school by its hall.

    All the best, and keep on loving your school. It’s definitely a school to be proud of.

    Aphra.

  37. Impressive magnanimity Aphra. So much ammunition, so many easy comebacks you could have made and you didn’t.

  38. Hi Aphra,

    Thank you for responding to our comments. We do indeed have a good school, and as you said ‘Fair’s Fair’… =]

  39. Thanks for the reply (and for not taking offence at the stupid comments some of us have left) i’m sure we wouldn’t mind (in fact I think we’d preffer it) if you erased some of the more prophanatous comments. I assure you that the people who left those comments are idiots with no self restraint what-so-ever. Again though I must insist you change your post because we at our school have taken a degree of pride in that alan bean evening and the condition of our hall.

    P.S. you might remember me, I was the one passing the microphones to the people with questions in the bottom section of the hall.

  40. thank you for apologising we are greatful

  41. Thank you for your apology.
    Although I do think some of the comments are just being pure racism and some just stupidity shouldn’t really be on here as they do show the school up also.

    Sorry for calling the Ghostbusters on you. πŸ˜‰

  42. I think you are good for the apology like i said yet your a wanker =]

  43. dannii nn jamiieeee

    HiiYA TARR 4 UR APOLOGY,, TiiS MCH APRECiiATED,, WEEE AL DOOO iiNDEED LURVE ‘R’ SKWL,, CO iiT’S D BOMB πŸ˜€ HEHE,, …… ,, BT ALL iiN ALL WEEEE RR VRY GLAD DAT YUU CEM 2 D ‘ALAN BEAN’ EVENiiNG,, NN ENJOYD iiT 2…xXx
    SHAME ii WOOO POORLY NN MiiSD iiT….XX
    iiT WOOO BiiG OF YUU 2 APOLOGIZE,, SOOOO GURD 4 YUU COKERSPADGE….MCH LOVEAGE FRM US 2 YUU DARLiiN…<3…AVE A FAB LY MAYTEEEEEE……XxX MWAH πŸ™‚ πŸ˜€ πŸ™‚ πŸ˜€ πŸ˜‰ ;D XOXOX

  44. REAL Jorge Ardron

    Sorry about the above, that wasn’t me

  45. Hey,
    To my suprise I ran into this blog post by doing research on Alan Bean.
    I am also a Media student who recorded the event for my GCSE project.
    It was definatly a good talk and was of great intereast, hence choosing to do it as my project for my school work – I’m editing as we speak and I just remembered some of the good points he put accross.

    As for the comment regarding the school, it is after all an old one. Still a fantastic school though!

    – James

  46. sexy black momma

    mmmm.
    πŸ˜‰

  47. Pingback: Across the Universe « Aphra Behn - danger of eclectic shock

  48. Having recently seen the wondrous documentary I too was enchanted with the contribution of Alan Bean.

    Would you please send me the text of your lovely article on him without the photos, as these seemingly prevent seeing the whole text.

  49. Oh, was that one of the documentaries produced by the students? That would have been interesting. I’ve moved the photographs so they are between paragraphs rather than next to them, and I hope that helps.

    Thanks for dropping by.

    Aphra.

  50. sophie robinson

    our school hall is not grubby etc, you posh stuck up snobs

  51. you stuck up people

  52. sophie rit that^^^^^

  53. sophie robinson

    no i dint jade did so there πŸ˜›

  54. sophie robinson

    ;):P:D:L

  55. πŸ˜‰

  56. sophie robinson

    πŸ˜‰

  57. sophie robinson

    jade merrick mateeee hahahahahahhahhahahhahahhahha
    did you allno jade merrick is really a boy?

  58. sophie robinson

    ELEPHANT MAN aka jade merrick

  59. sexy black momma

    thomas milton likes men.

  60. sexy black momma

    no he doesn’t.honestly.

  61. sexy black momma

    apart from james.

  62. Im carl and I agree. Praise me.

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