Astronaut’s advice: ‘Hold on to your dream’

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“Hello, fellow earthlings....Hello, fellow human beings,” was the greeting from NASA Apollo 12 astronaut Alan Bean this morning for an audience of students plus school and business representatives at The Beeches.

The fourth man to walk on the moon when he did so in November 1969, Bean’s opening also noted “it’s nice to be with you in paradise,” back on Earth.

Speaking for over an hour, Bean delighted the approximately 200 people with details about his NASA training and missions, his paintings based on his space experiences, and many words of advice for the students to help them prepare for careers.

His appearance was part of this week’s Project Fibonacci STEAM (science, technology, engineering, the arts, math) Youth Conference, hosted by ANDRO Computational Solutions.

Observing that walking on the moon seemed like “an impossible dream” at one time, Bean said “if you’ve got a dream...you have to not lose faith....If you’re not following your dream and you’re doing a lot of hard work, you’re not liking it...much.” He emphasized “hold onto your dream...no matter what it is....what’s in your heart.”

Bean also cited the importance of such professions as mathematicians and physicists, including their efforts in helping to plan the Apollo missions and in life overall. For example, during the Apollo 12 flight, “it looked like we were falling into the middle” of the moon at one point, he said, but mathematicians were right in their calculations and “we ended up in...orbit” as planned.

“We had to believe the mathematicians,” Bean commented. Referring to technological items today, he said “to make the world work...it works on mathematics.”

Bean drew chuckles from the audience when recalling that many of the astronauts’ goals initially were to “get to the moon...put up a flag...talk to the president...get a few rocks...go home.”

When NASA planners outlined more science-related tasks, “we said...’that sounds like geology.’

We said ‘we’re airplane pilots.’” Geology “wasn’t our dream,” he commented, but people may have to “do some other things to get to your dream.” They worked with geology instructors, and “we just had to learn.”

Among some of the other remarks from Bean, 84, who lives in Houston, Texas:

• His theory was to “figure out what I can do for fun,” such as flying planes, and “be good enough at it so that they pay me.” When he retired from NASA in 1981, his hobby was painting, and he again thought of “how to take my dream and convert it to a way to make a living.”

• The audience roared with laughter as Bean described problems with NASA preparations that involved using a device to lift him while he was in a space suit. It did not work as planned, leaving him with a “super wedgie” at one point, he said. But planners eventually solved the issue, showing the importance to “think it through....You can’t lose heart.”

• As planners sought a more accurate and specific landing site on the moon that was to include more mountains and crevices, it showed the importance to “think about how you could do it” rather than “why you can’t.” He added “getting your attitude right is so important.”

• Recounting that fellow astronaut Charles “Pete” Conrad told him he was not a good “team member,” Bean said Conrad indicated that the efforts of all 400,000 people in the Apollo program were needed to “get us to the moon.” He said the advice was to “find a way to admire and care about the other team members.”

Applying that lesson for students, Bean emphasizing having positive thoughts about people close to them, and to “think good things...forget the shortcomings.” He said this includes parents, who are students’ “number one and number two teammates.”

• Describing the moon’s lack of living beings, lack of any growth, and lack of color, Bean said of Earth, “we’re living in paradise right this moment....I think this is the most wonderful place...we get to live our whole lives on.” After getting back from his Skylab mission in 1973, Bean said he was glad to see blue water and bright skies, and plenty of people.

Since coming back from space, “I never complain about traffic....I never complain about standing in line,” Bean remarked. If it snowed today, he said, he would call them “beautiful snow flakes,” drawing more laughter from the audience.

Before the program began, Bean chatted with some attendees who arrived early, including signing autographs of photos that they brought. He looked at several vintage magazines, books and clippings about the space missions that had been placed on a table by ANDRO Director of Business Operations Thomas Benjamin, commenting “you’ve got a lot of stuff here.” Benjamin said they were from his personal collection.

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