Astronaut And Corvette Enthusiast Alan Bean Dies At 86

Any red-blooded American boy had some amazing role models to live up to in the late-60s and early-70s. While the United States and Russia were battling it out in the space race, our boys with the “Right Stuff” were upping the ante by spending their time on terra firma blasting around in America’s sportscar – Corvettes.

When those you look up to are literally shooting for the stars, their inspiration becomes seated in such a way that they lift you up into the stratosphere as well. Chevrolet understood the magnetic impulse of this time and grasped the significance of having their halo car serving as earth-modules for these out-of-this-world superstars. That is why Chevrolet started a lease program for any astronaut to enjoy a Corvette during their time on earth. A special perk dreamed up by Ed Cole and Jim Rathmann, astronauts could lease a Corvette for only a dollar a year. It was a courtesy lease program, with the Corvette being turned back in after one year.

Alan Bean was a role model in the highest form of the word; as a NASA astronaut, he was the fourth human to walk on the moon. He and his entire team of Apollo 12 rocketeers joined together to take advantage of Chevrolet’s lease program and ordered up a trio of brand-new 1969 big-block, four-speed Corvettes. All the cars were Riverside Gold with an additional Black “wing” section to designate their significance. Other markings called out their other-worldly significance, and the three cars were spotlighted in LIFE magazine and came to be known as the AstroVettes.

One of those famous, gold Corvettes was ordered by astronaut and all-around nice guy, Alan Bean. He was one of 14 trainees selected by NASA in what would become its third group of astronauts in October 1963. He flew into space twice, as the lunar module pilot on the second moon-landing mission known as Apollo 12, and as commander of the second crewed flight to the United States’ first space station, Skylab, in July 1973.

As the crew on the Apollo 12 space mission, Pete Conrad (Left), Dick Gordon (Center) and Alan (Right) all chose similarly-equipped big-block Corvettes. Alan Bean became the fourth human to walk on the moon during this mission.

Alan Bean was born March 15, 1932, in Wheeler, Texas. He received a Bachelor of Science degree in aeronautical engineering from the University of Texas in 1955 and attended the Navy Test Pilot School where he accumulated more than 5,500 hours of flying time in 27 different types of aircraft. Alan retired from the Navy in 1975 and NASA in 1981 and began his next career as an accomplished artist. His Apollo-themed paintings featured canvases textured with lunar boot prints and were made using acrylics embedded with small pieces of his moon dust-stained mission patches.

In total, Bean logged 69 days, 15 hours and 45 minutes in space, including 31 hours and 31 minutes on the moon’s surface. Even though Alan is no longer with us, his example as a role model, his work as an artist and even the car that he enjoyed while on earth are all here to remind us we should aspire to do great things, to reach higher and to keep looking up. What a wonderful legacy from someone whose footprints have forever have changed the lunar landscape.

 

About the author

Andy Bolig

Andy has been intrigued by mechanical things all of his life and enjoys tinkering with cars of all makes and ages. Finding value in style points, he can appreciate cars of all power and performance levels. Andy is an avid railfan and gets his “high” by flying radio-controlled model airplanes when time permits. He keeps his feet firmly grounded by working on his two street rods and his supercharged C4 Corvette. Whether planes, trains, motorcycles, or automobiles, Andy has immersed himself in a world driven by internal combustion.
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