Legendary Apollo 8 Astronaut William Anders, Also Known for Iconic 'Earthrise' Photograph, Dies in Plane Crash at 90

NASA pays tribute

William Anders, the legendary astronaut who captured the famous "Earthrise" photo during the Apollo 8 mission, tragically died in a plane crash on Friday. He was 90 years old.

Anders was flying a small plane off the coast of Washington state. His son confirmed he was the only person on board. San Juan County Sheriff Eric Peter said search teams were working at the crash site, but Anders' body had not been recovered immediately.

William Anders
USA's Legendary astronaut, who was part of Apolo 8 crew who were the first three people to orbit the moon, has died in a plane crash in Washington X

The San Juan County Sheriff's Office reported that the plane went down near Jones Island around 11:40 a.m. PT. The U.S. Coast Guard later announced that Anders' body was found after a search involving multiple agencies.

Born on October 17, 1933, in Hong Kong, Anders graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1955 and later earned his pilot's wings in the U.S. Air Force. He served as a fighter pilot and worked at the Air Force Weapons Laboratory on nuclear power reactor shielding.

In December 1968, Anders gained global fame as part of the Apollo 8 mission, the first crewed spacecraft to orbit the Moon. Alongside Frank Borman and Jim Lovell, Anders orbited the Moon ten times and took the iconic "Earthrise" photo, showing Earth rising over the lunar surface.

Anders was selected by NASA in 1964 and served as a backup pilot for the Gemini 11 and Apollo 11 missions. He logged over 6,000 hours of flight time.

After his astronaut career, Anders held several significant roles, including Executive Secretary for the National Aeronautics and Space Council and the first chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. He was also the U.S. ambassador to Norway and led General Dynamics as CEO and chairman in the early 1990s.

NASA Administrator Bill Nelson paid tribute to Anders, saying, "He traveled to the threshold of the Moon and helped all of us see something else: ourselves. We will miss him."

Anders is survived by his wife, Valerie, two daughters, and four sons. His passing leaves James Lovell as the last surviving member of the Apollo 8 crew.

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