Death of Apollo 8 astronaut William Anders in plane crash, photographed by Earthrise

SEATTLE (AP) — William Anders, Ex Apollo 8 The astronaut who in 1968 took the “Earthrise” photo showing the shadowy blue marble-like planet from space was killed Friday when the plane he was piloting solo crashed into the ocean off the San Juan Islands in Washington state. He is 90 years old.

His son, retired Air Force Lt. Col. Greg Anders, confirmed the death to The Associated Press.

“The family is devastated,” he said. “He was a great pilot and we will miss him dearly.”

William Anders, a retired major general, said his most important contribution to the space program was making sure the Apollo 8 command module and service module worked.

The first color image of Earth from space was one of the most important photographs in modern history that changed how humans saw the planet. This photo is thought to have sparked a global environmental movement showing how fragile and isolated Earth is from space.

NASA administrator and former Sen. Bill Nelson said Anders embodied the lessons and purpose of the study.

“He traveled to the moon’s doorstep and helped us all see something else: ourselves,” Nelson wrote on social media site X.

Anders took the photo during the moon’s fourth orbit, frantically switching from black and white to color.

“Oh my god, look at that picture!” Anders said. “The earth is coming up. Wow, looks beautiful!”

The The Apollo 8 mission In December 1968, the first human spaceflight left low Earth orbit and returned to the Moon. It was NASA’s boldest and most dangerous mission, and set the stage for the Apollo moon landings seven months later.

“Bill Anders forever changed our view of our planet and ourselves with his famous Earthrise photograph on Apollo 8,” said retired NASA astronaut Arizona Sen. Mark Kelly wrote in X. . My thoughts are with his family and friends.

San Juan County Sheriff Eric Peter said an older model plane crashed into the water on the north side of Jones Island around 11:40 a.m. Greg Anders confirmed to KING-TV that his father’s body was recovered Friday afternoon.

According to the Federal Aviation Association, Beech was the only pilot on board the A45 at the time.

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

William Anders stated in 1997 NASA Oral History He testified that he did not think the Apollo 8 mission was without risk, but that there were important national, patriotic and exploratory reasons to proceed. He estimated that there was a one-in-three chance that the crew would not make it back, the same chance that the mission would succeed, and the same chance that the mission would not launch. He said he suspected Christopher Columbus had sailed with dire odds.

He described how the earth was at home despite its fragile and seemingly physically insignificant appearance.

“We were going backwards and upside down, not really seeing the Earth or the Sun, until we came around and saw the first Earthquake,” he said. “It was, of course, a very impressive thing. To see this very delicate, colorful orb that looked like a Christmas tree ornament to me, this stark, ugly lunar landscape was really different.

Anders said in retrospect that he wished he had taken more photos, but mission commander Frank Borman was concerned about whether everyone was resting and sent Anders and command block pilot James A. Forced Lovell, Jr. to sleep, “It might make sense.”

He served as backup crew on Apollo 11 and Gemini XI in 1966, but the Apollo 8 mission was the only time he flew into space.

Anders was born on October 17, 1933 in Hong Kong. At the time, his father was a naval lieutenant aboard the USS Panay, an American gunboat in China’s Yangtze River.

Anders and his wife, Valerie, founded the Heritage Flight Museum in Washington State in 1996. It is now located at a regional airport in Burlington and houses 15 aircraft, several vintage military vehicles, a library and many artifacts. Museum website. His two sons helped him run it.

The couple moved to Orcas Island in the San Juan Archipelago in 1993 and have a second home in their hometown of San Diego, according to a biography on the museum’s website. They had six children and 13 grandchildren. Their current Washington home was in Anacortes.

Anders graduated from the Naval Academy in 1955 and served in the Air Force as a fighter pilot.

He later served at the Atomic Energy Commission, as US Chair of the Joint US-USSR Technology Transfer Program for Nuclear Fission and Fusion Power, and as Ambassador to Norway. He later worked for General Electric and General Dynamics NASA biography.

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Associated Press writer Lisa Bauman contributed to this report.

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