An Apollo astronaut who walked on the moon is in Iowa to talk with students at Des Moines Area Community College for the school’s “Innovation Week” activities. Alan Bean was part of the second lunar landing on the Apollo 12 mission in November of 1969. Bean talks to college students about the preparations involved in being the fourth man to walk and the moon, and his later mission to the Skylab space station.

Bean says he tries to bring up things he had to learn to be able to accomplish the missions and says it’s related to meeting your goals and fulfilling your dreams. For most college students Bean’s moon walk was two decades before they were born, and he says there are many who don’t understand why the U.S. went to the moon.

Bean says they don’t hear the reason for going to the moon, and compares it to the Civil War, as you don’t understand why our country would have a Civil War until you read about it and learn why. He says there is a small percentage of the students that understand it and want to be astronauts and want to go to the moon, and think it’s something the country aught to do. Bean says the astronauts in the first space missions had a lot of luck to be where they were at the time when he program was starting — but today’s students can plot their own course.

He says young people can now adjust their career to be a pilot in the military, or be a geologist or meteorologist or doctor and use that as a path to get into the space program and become an astronaut. President Barrack Obama has decided to pull money from the budget for future moon missions — something Bean does not agree with.

“I think it’s sad, I think what’s occurring is…I don’t think Mr. Obama, the president is at all an explorer, at all interested in doing the things that other presidents wanted to do,” Bean says, “like he would never send out Lewis and Clark to explore the west. He would say to the congress ‘look there’s just a bunch of Indians out there and we don’t need to go’, so he’s not a guy who’s interested in any of this.”

Critics of the space program says it spends a lot of money at a time when the country is in huge debt and needs money for other things.

Bean says those people are right to some degree, but he says if a company doesn’t invest money in research and development, it may own the market now, but won’t own the market in the future. Bean cites computer giant Microsoft as an example, saying if Microsoft stopped explorer new ways to make computers and software, they would eventually fall out of the top spot in the industry. Bean says that’s true for the U.S. and it’s exploration of space.

Bean will turn 78 on March 15th. He retired from NASA in 1981 and took up painting full time. Find out more about Bean here.