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Dr. Alan Bean: America's uncertain future in space

Do you believe extraterrestrials have visited the Earth?

No. In all the billions of miles of space, we're it. Unlike on T.V. where aliens have landed here or people are waiting for the aliens to come by-in the real world, they'll never come by. Here we are; we're all there is in this portion of the universe. It's up to us to make the Earth a great place.

You use realistic and fantasy art as a means of exploring your off-Earth experiences. Why?

I have witnessed things that few humans have seen. I went to another world and I am an artist. So, when I left NASA in 1980, I wanted to be true to my creative skills and tell the stories of humanity's first adventures off the Earth through visual art. I can celebrate the first time humans went to another world, the Moon. Yes, we will do it again when we send humans to land on Mars for the first time. This is what humans do. We explore new worlds. I explore these new worlds through my art.

Regarding the Apollo 12 and Skylab 3 missions, what are your fondest memories?

Well, not all crews get along like professional teams. But I was lucky on Apollo 12 in 1969 and Skylab 3 in 1973. I can honestly say I went on a flight to the Moon with my two best friends, Pete Conrad and Dick Gordon. It was scary at times, but I had these two great guys by my side. Jack Lousma and Owen Garriott were with me on SL-3. They were the rookies and I was the veteran, the commander of that mission. I passed on to them what Pete and Dick taught me about doing the right things as an astronaut. I tried to model Pete as Skylab commander. And we were up there for 59 days doing a lot of good science.

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