Wednesday, April 30, 2008

"The only limits we have are those we place on ourselves."

In 1969, Alan Bean, Lunar Module Pilot for Apollo 12, became the fourth human being to step onto the surface of the moon. He stayed with NASA, and spent a significant amount of time on Skylab in the 1970s, while painting as a hobby. In 1981, he decided that he had an opportunity to do something (else) special - he had the ability to paint, and was one of only twelve men ever to have walked on the moon. He was in a position to do things that no one else has ever been able to do. Many of his paintings can be found here, and it is well worth the perusal.

I was in the audience last night as he spoke at the Museum of Science in Boston It was an excellent talk. He talked about his time at NASA, about his trip to the moon, and about his painting. He showed some pictures from training, some pictures from his trip, and several of his paintings, which are excellent. It was entertaining, educational and inspirational, and I'm thrilled to have had the opportunity to shake his hand.

A couple of the simple interesting or amusing points (most of the good stuff was longer):

  • He wanted to get some moon dust and actually incorporate it in the media that he uses, but NASA doesn't have any to spare. But he did have the patches from his suit, and they were dirty with...moon dust. So he's been cutting his patches into tiny pieces and putting them in the paintings.

  • He said that when he and his family saw Buzz Aldrin on the moon, it was more unbelievable for them than for most of the people watching, because Buzz Aldrin was his neighbor.

  • He looks at the moon and feels like it is further away now than it was in the late 1960s and early 1970s. We don't have a rocket that could get there, and it would take quite a while to design and build one.

  • His silver NASA flight pin is lying on the surface of the moon, just as shiny as the day he tossed it there.

  • He and Pete Conrad considered taking along an old arrow head, dropping it, and panning past it with their camera, but decided that some of the scientists didn't have enough of a sense of humor...

  • For those who have seen From The Earth To The Moon, he did, in fact, try to fix his camera by hitting it with a hammer. I know, because my 12 year-old asked him, and he confirmed it.

It was a fascinating and special evening...

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