Apollo 8 astronaut behind iconic 'Earthrise' photograph killed in plane crash

William Anders passed away aged 90 in Washington leaving behind his wife, 2 daughters and 4 sons

By  Web Desk   |  
June 08, 2024
Apollo 8 astronaut William Anders dies at 90 in tragic plane crash. — AFP/File, Reuters/File

William Anders, a former astronaut at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Nasa), known for his historic role in the Apollo 8 mission, died in a plane crash on Friday in Washington, his son Gregory confirmed.

According to The Sun, Anders, 90, was flying an aircraft that went down off the coast of Jones Island in the San Juan Islands, the San Juan County Sheriff's Office reported.


After hours-long search, involving multiple agencies and covering 215 nautical miles, the United States Coast Guard recovered Anders' body.

Anders had graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 1955 and later, served as a fighter pilot in all-weather interception squadrons of the Air Defense Command in California and Iceland.

He managed nuclear power reactor shielding and radiation effects programs at the Force Weapons Laboratory in New Mexico.

Anders was selected as an astronaut by Nasa in 1964 and served as backup pilot for the Gemini 11 mission in 1966 and the Apollo 11 flight in 1969.

His most significant achievement was as the lunar module pilot for Apollo 8 in December 1968, where he, alongside Jim Lovell and Frank Borman, became part of the first crew to orbit the moon.

During this mission, Anders captured the iconic "Earthrise" photograph, which has been described as "legendary" by Nasa.

In a post on X, Nasa administrator Bill Nelson paid tribute to Anders, saying: "Bill Anders offered to humanity among the deepest of gifts an astronaut can give. He traveled to the threshold of the Moon and helped all of us see something else: ourselves. He embodied the lessons and the purpose of exploration. We will miss him."

Anders leaves behind his wife, Valerie, their two daughters, and four sons.