Alumnus and NASA astronaut Alan Bean recently passed away, but a piece of his legacy as a lunar visitor resides in the new McKinney Engineering Library.
A small flag that Bean carried with him on a trip to the moon hangs in the library today.
Bean donated the flag-that-went-to-the-moon that is framed and on display at the Engineering Library, with his signature and a small plaque noting Bean’s affiliation with the university. He received his B.S. in Aeronautical Engineering in 1955 and was named as a Distinguished Graduate of the College of Engineering in 1970.
Born in the Panhandle town of Wheeler (pop. 1,592) in 1933, Bean graduated from high school in Fort Worth and attended The University of Texas at Austin where he was in the Naval ROTC. He became a fighter pilot in the Navy, and later attended the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School where he was instructed by his future Apollo 12 commander Pete Conrad. Conrad personally selected Bean for the Apollo 12 mission to replace astronaut Clifton Williams, who was killed in an air crash.
Bean was the lunar module pilot for the Apollo 12 mission in November, 1969, which had some anxious moments shortly after launch when an electrical surge caused by a lightning strike created a telemetry problem for the vehicle. Bean was responsible for executing the command that circumvented the problem and prevented the mission from being aborted. Bean and the crew landed on the moon on November 19, and returned safely to Earth on November 24.
Emeritus Engineering Librarian Susan Ardis noticed at one point that that the original signature was faded, and colleagues in the College of Engineering (now Cockrell School of Engineering) contacted Bean, on Susan’s behalf, about a replacement. He graciously sent his signature in a few different sizes so that the best one — the best match for the artistic design of the framing — could be selected.
The flag remained with Engineering Library staff during the construction of the new Engineering Education and Research Center, and now hangs in the new Engineering Library.