"So I took some time off and painted full-time to see if I'd like it. I simulated it, which is always good. I learned that at NASA; and the more I simulated being an artist, the more I realized it's much more difficult than I'd thought," he said. "But at the same time I liked it. I cared about it! I had many nice job offers for a lot of money, but I didn't care about them. I care about these paintings. I care about them every day."
After landing on the moon's Ocean of Storms with Pete Conrad in 1969, Bean stayed with NASA, painting on the side.
But after retiring at age 49, he devoted his time to painting in his Houston studio. In 1984, he publicly displayed his work for the first time in Houston. His exhibit, "First Artist on Another Planet," is currently at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.
Each of his paintings includes small pieces of moon memorabilia – from parts of his name tag to Apollo mission patches and the U.S. flag. (His Web site points out that "each of the fragments is embedded with small amounts of lunar dust.")
"I remember thinking in lunar orbit, that if I got back from this, I was going to live my life differently, in that I was going to try to live it… like I want to live it," he said in an interview with Chaikin. "Mostly it made me have a lot of courage to do what I wanted to do and be happy about it… that's one thing that really allowed me to be an artist. I probably wouldn't have had the courage to be an artist."
Ten years after becoming the first American to journey into space, Alan Shepard logged another extraterrestrial milestone – he became the fifth person to walk on the moon.
In February 1971, at age 47, Shepard reached the moon with the Apollo 14 mission. He hadn't flown anything since he rocketed 116 miles above Florida in 1961.
At the end of the second moonwalk, the avid golfer carried out a different kind of scientific experiment: he pulled out a makeshift golf club and whacked two golf balls. One landed in a nearby crater. The other, he said, traveled "miles and miles and miles."
"All of us wanted to think of something which would demonstrate – especially to young people – the lack of atmosphere and the difference of gravity," he said in a 1991 interview with the American Academy of Achievement. Shepard wanted to show that with only one-sixth the gravitational pull of Earth, the ball would travel six times as far.
But he didn't see the moon as just a giant golf course.
"The first time really seeing it in the black sky, the blue planet all by itself up there. That was an emotional moment. Some of the emotion was a result of having successfully arrived, a little sense of relief, but I think all of us, in our own ways, have expressed the same kind of feeling," Shepard said in 1991.
"Maybe if people had a chance to see this, they wouldn't be so parochial, they wouldn't be so interested in their own particular territories," he said. "To me and, I think, to all of us, it was a realization that our world is finite, it is small, it is fragile, and we need to start thinking about how to take care of it."
After Apollo 14, he reprised his role as chief of the Astronaut Office (a position he held before the mission) and remained in that administrative role until retiring to a corporate position in Houston in 1974.