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Alan Bean, moon-walking US astronaut turned painter, dies in Houston

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American astronaut Alan Bean, who walked on the moon in 1969 during the Apollo 12 mission and commanded a crew on the Skylab space station in 1973 before giving up his career to become a full-time painter, died in Houston on Saturday, officials said.

Bean, 86, a former U.S. Navy test pilot who became one of only 12 people ever to set foot on the moon, died at Houston Methodist Hospital, his family said in a statement released by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). He had fallen ill two weeks ago while traveling in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

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“Alan was the strongest and kindest man I ever knew. He was the love of my life and I miss him dearly,” said Leslie Bean, Bean’s wife of 40 years, in a statement. “A native Texan, Alan died peacefully in Houston surrounded by those who loved him.”

Leaving his footprints on a region called the Ocean of Storms, Bean in November 1969 became the fourth man to walk on the moon as one of the astronauts on the second of NASA’s lunar landing missions, Apollo 12.

For the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11’s moon landing, Bean exhibited his paintings of lunar scenes at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum in Washington.

Bean’s lunar quest came just four months after American Neil Armstrong became the first human to walk on the moon in NASA’s historic Apollo 11 mission in July 1969.

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Bean served as lunar module pilot on Apollo 12. He and crew mate Pete Conrad explored the moon’s surface and conducted experiments while Richard Gordon orbited overhead in the command module, scouting landing sites for future moon missions.

“I remember once looking back at Earth and starting to think, ‘Gee, that’s beautiful.’ Then I said to myself, ‘Quit screwing off and go collect rocks.’ We figured reflection wasn’t productive,” Bean told People magazine in 1981.

The mission was a success, even though it started with a jolt. Shortly after liftoff, the rocket was struck by lightning but the crew was able to continue the three-day flight to the moon. Bean and Conrad spent more than 31 hours on the lunar surface, including more than seven hours working outside of the module.

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In 1973, Bean commanded the second mission to Skylab, the first U.S. space station. Along with crew mates Owen Garriott and Jack Lousma, he spent 59 days in low-Earth orbit.

Bean later played a key role in preparing future astronauts, serving in that role until the first flight of the space shuttle in 1981. He even worked with “Star Trek” actress Nichelle Nichols on outreach efforts to prospective astronauts.

‘LIVE YOUR DREAM’
His decision in 1981 to give up his NASA career to become a full-time artist surprised some of his colleagues.

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“You have to live your dream even if other people think it’s screwed up,” Bean told a 2010 NASA oral history interview. “About half the astronauts thought it was a midlife crisis or something. The other half, the ones that were more right-brain, thought it was a pretty good idea.”

Bean remembered telling a senior NASA official named George Abbey the reason he was leaving the space agency.

“I said, ‘I’m going to be an artist,’” Bean recalled. “If he hadn’t had the window behind him, he would have gone over backwards. … His first comment: ‘Can you earn a living at that?’ … I said, ‘I don’t know, but if I can’t I’m going to go to work at Jack in the Box (the fast-food hamburger chain).”

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Working at his home in Houston, Bean created paintings that focused on the Apollo missions, with images of himself and other astronauts on the moon rendered with the authenticity in lighting and color that only an eyewitness could provide. His paintings sold for tens of thousands of dollars apiece.

His former colleagues became admirers. Armstrong once said, “Alan Bean and his ‘astroartistry’ recreate the drama and excitement of man’s exploration of the moon as only could be chronicled by one who has been there.”

“I think I would like to be remembered in the end as an astronaut and an artist,” Bean told People. “I think everyone can do more than one thing with his life.”

Bean was born on March 15, 1932, in Wheeler, Texas, and grew up in Fort Worth. He aspired to become a pilot and started flight training at age 17. He earned a degree in aeronautical engineering at the University of Texas, then was commissioned as an officer in the Navy.

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He trained as a Navy test pilot under Conrad, who years later during their astronaut days played a key role in getting Bean designated for the Apollo 11 mission.

The retired Navy captain lived with his wife, Leslie, in Houston. He had two children by a previous marriage.

Reporting and writing by Will Dunham; Additional reporting by Gina Cherelus; Editing by Susan Thomas


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Cardinal Pell files High Court appeal against child sex conviction

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Disgraced Cardinal George Pell lodged an appeal against his child sex abuse convictions in Australia's High Court on Tuesday, in a last-ditch effort to clear his name.

Pell filed his application for leave to appeal just one day before the 28-day lodgement window closed, a court official in Canberra told AFP.

It is the final avenue for the 78-year-old -- who is serving a six-year sentence for sexually assaulting two choirboys in a Melbourne cathedral in the 1990s -- to get out of jail.

But there is no guarantee that the High Court will agree to consider Pell's case. Australia's most senior judges will now deliberate on whether to allow the appeal to proceed, a process that could take months.

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Earth to warm more quickly, new climate models show

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Greenhouse gases thrust into the atmosphere by burning fossil fuels are warming Earth's surface more quickly than previously understood, according to new climate models set to replace those used in current UN projections, scientists said Tuesday.

By 2100, average temperatures could rise 6.5 to 7.0 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels if carbon emissions continue unabated, separate models from two leading research centres in France showed.

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NYT reporter explains how a Trump war with Iran could spiral out of control: ‘Playing with fire’

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As President Donald Trump pugnaciously warned on Twitter this weekend that the United States is “locked and loaded” to go after Iran following a recent attack on oil infrastructure in Saudi Arabia, foreign policy experts and observers with actual insight into the situation warned that a conflict in the region could spiral out of control.

New York Times reporter Michael Crowley, appearing on MSNBC’s “Deadline: White House” on Thursday, argued that a war with Iran could be much more disastrous and challenging than the devastating Iraq War was.

“It would be a huge, huge, mess,” Crowly said. “Iraq at least was country that we were able to militarily defeat and occupy pretty quickly, and then you had this horrible, long occupation with an insurgency that was disastrous. But in the case of Iran, it’s just a much more formidable military adversary with a lot more ways to counterattack and retaliate and escalate. Israel gets dragged in, the global economy could go up in flames. So you’re not just thinking about a theoretical political principle while Trump is betraying his base — it’s that Trump is inviting, if he were to risk a serious conflict with Iran, a potential debacle in so many ways.”

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