William Anders, who captured iconic Earthrise photo, dies in plane crash

Retired Major General William Anders, the former Apollo 8 astronaut who took the iconic "Earthrise" photo showing the planet as a shadowed blue marble from space in 1968, has been killed when the plane he was piloting alone plummeted into the waters off the San Juan Islands in Washington state. He was 90.

His son, retired Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Greg Anders, confirmed the death to The Associated Press on Friday.

"The family is devastated," Greg Anders said. "He was a great pilot, and we will miss him terribly."

William Anders had said the photo was his most significant contribution to the space programme, given the ecological philosophical impact it had, along with making sure the Apollo 8 command module and service module worked.

The photograph, the first colour image of Earth from space, is one of the most important photos in modern history for the way it changed how humans viewed the planet.

The photo is credited with sparking the global environmental movement for showing how delicate and isolated Earth appeared from space.

Arizona Senator Mark Kelly, who is also a retired NASA astronaut, wrote on the social platform X, "Bill Anders forever changed our perspective of our planet and ourselves with his famous Earthrise photo on Apollo 8. He inspired me and generations of astronauts and explorers. My thoughts are with his family and friends."

This December 24, 1968, acclaimed photo made available by NASA shows the Earth behind the surface of the moon during the Apollo 8 mission.

A report came in around 11:40 am that an older-model plane crashed into the water and sank near the north end of Jones Island, San Juan County Sheriff Eric Peter said.

Only the pilot was on board the Beech A45 airplane at the time, according to the Federal Aviation Association [FAA].

The National Transportation Safety Board and FAA are investigating the crash.

Life and achievements

William Anders said in a 1997 NASA oral history interview that he didn't think the Apollo 8 mission was risk-free, but there were important national, patriotic and exploration reasons for going ahead.

He estimated there was about one in three chances that the crew wouldn't make it back, the same chance the mission would be a success, and the same chance the mission wouldn't start at all.

He said he suspected Christopher Columbus sailed with worse odds.

He recounted how the earth looked fragile and seemingly physically insignificant, yet was home.

"We'd been going backwards and upside down, didn't really see the Earth or the Sun, and when we rolled around and came around and saw the first Earthrise," he said.

"That certainly was, by far, the most impressive thing. To see this very delicate, colourful orb, which to me looked like a Christmas tree ornament coming up over this very stark, ugly lunar landscape, really contrasted."

Anders was born in Hong Kong in 1933 and graduated from the US Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, in 1955.

He obtained a master's degree in nuclear engineering from the Air Force Institute of Technology at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Dayton, Ohio, in 1962.

Andres was selected as an astronaut in 1963, and after five years of training, he was named the Lunar Module pilot on the Apollo 8 mission.

He was awarded several honorary doctoral degrees and received the American Defense Preparedness Association's first Industry Leadership Award in 1993.


Source: TRT