Apollo 8 astronaut William Anders, who took the famous “Earthrise” photo, died in a plane crash


William Anders, a NASA astronaut who was part of the 1968 Apollo 8 crew who were the first three people to orbit the moon, died in a plane crash in Washington state, according to his son, Gregory Anders. He was 90 years old.

“My father died in a plane accident in the San Juan Islands,” Anders told CNN on Friday evening. He added: “The family is devastated and saddened by the loss of a great pilot.”

The San Juan County Sheriff’s Office said New release A plane crashed off the coast of Jones Island.

The dispatch center got an initial report around 11:40 a.m. PT that “an old model aircraft was flying north to south and then fell into the water near the north end of Jones Island and sank,” the sheriff’s office said.

United States Coast Guard later Announce The pilot’s body was recovered by a dive team after an hours-long search that involved several agencies and covered 215 nautical miles. The San Juan Islands are located about 90 miles north of Seattle.

William Anders was born on October 17, 1933 in Hong Kong. He graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 1955 and after being commissioned into the United States Air Force. He got his pilot’s wings The following year, according to the U.S. Naval Academy website.

Anders served Fighter pilot in the Air Defense Command’s all-weather interception squadrons in California and Iceland, according to NASA and the U.S. Naval Academy.

While at the Air Force Weapons Laboratory in New Mexico, Anders was responsible for managing programs to protect nuclear power reactors and radiation effects, his NASA biography states.

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In 1964, he was selected as an astronaut by NASA and served as a backup pilot for the Gemini 11 mission in 1966 and the Apollo 11 mission in 1969. Anders logged more than 6,000 flight hours, according to NASA.

Anders, fellow astronauts Jim Lovell, and mission commander Frank Borman, who died in November 2023, flew on the first lunar orbit mission in December 1968 aboard Apollo 8. Anders served as the lunar module pilot for the historic flight.

From the spacecraft, Anders captured a distinctive image of Earth showing the lunar surface in the foreground during the Apollo 8 mission on Christmas Eve 1968. Titled “Earthrise“.

Anders famously said: “We have come all this way to explore the Moon, and the most important thing is that we have discovered the Earth.”

Image, Described as “legendary” NASA’s video tribute to Anders on Friday was taken while the crew was taking images of the lunar surface for geological analysis, Anders said in a previous interview with NASA.

“Suddenly I looked out the window, and there was this wonderful orb appearing,” Anders described the Earth.

“For me, it made me realize that the Earth is small and delicate and not the center of the universe,” Anders said.

Anders, Lovell and Bormann were identified By Time magazine “Men of the Year” title in 1968.

Anders served as executive secretary of the National Aeronautics and Space Council from 1969 to 1973, according to NASA. President Gerald Ford appointed him as the first Chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, responsible for nuclear safety and environmental compliance.

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NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said In a post on X, Previous Twitter, Friday: “Bill Anders has given humanity among the most profound gifts an astronaut can give. “He traveled to the moon’s doorstep and helped us all see something else: ourselves.”

“He embodied the lessons and purpose of exploration,” Nelson continued. “We will miss him.”

Anders and his wife Valerie had two daughters and four sons.

This story has been updated with additional information.

CNN’s Ashley Strickland contributed to this report.

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