Apollo 8 'Earthrise' astronaut dies in Washington plane crash

William Anders passes away at age of 90 after his aircraft crashed

Web Desk
This image courtesy of Nasa obtained on June 7, 2024 shows the official N portrait of astronaut William Anders taken September 9, 1967. — AFP

Apollo 8 astronaut William Anders, who captured one of the most popular photographs in outer space, has died in a plane crash at the age of 90.

Into the sea off Washington state, a small aircraft that he was flying crashed as per the officials, according to BBC.

Anders' son Greg confirmed on Friday afternoon that his father's body was recovered.

"The family is devastated. He was a great pilot. He will be missed," a statement from the family read.

On the Apollo 8 mission, Anders, who was a lunar module pilot, captured the iconic Earthrise photograph. It is one of the most memorable and inspirational images of Earth from space.

During the 1968 mission, the picture was taken on Christmas Eve. It was the first crewed spaceflight to leave Earth and reach the Moon. From the barren lunar surface, the picture shows the Earth rising above the horizon.

Later, Anders described this feat as his most prominent contribution to the space programme.

With motivating the global environmental movement and leading to the creation of Earth Day, which is a yearly event to create awareness regarding the dying planet, the image is widely credited.

Anders had said while speaking of the moment: "We came all this way to explore the Moon, and the most important thing that we discovered was the Earth."

Anders' plane crashed at around 11:40 PDT (19:40 BST), said officials.

Witness Philip Person told King-TV in Seattle that he witnessed the crash.

The plane began doing what appeared to be a loop and became inverted, he told the network.

"I could not believe what I was seeing in front of my eyes," Person told the local news station. "It looked like something right out of a movie or special effects. With the large explosion and flames and everything."