June 21, 2024
1 Solar System Way, Planet Earth, USA

William Anders, NASA astronaut and US Air Force major general, dies at 90

Anders took the iconic image, “Eartrise,” during the Apollo 8 mission.

William “Bill” Anders, former Apollo 8 astronaut, died in a plane crash on Friday, June 7, 2024. Anders was piloting a small aircraft in Roche Harbor, Washington state. The boat entered the water and sank, according to a San Juan County report. Press release. The death was confirmed by his son, Greg, as reported by Richard Goldstein for The New York Times.

Anders made the first crewed trip around the Moon during the Apollo 8 mission, which included Anders, Frank Borman, and James Lovell. Together, the astronauts orbited the Moon for 20 hours and were the first humans to see the far side of the Moon.

Astronaut Anders preparing for the Apollo 8 mission. Credit: NASA

Anders was born on October 17, 1933. In 1955 he graduated from the United States Naval Academy and in 1962 earned a master's degree in nuclear engineering from the Air Force Institute of Technology. A year later, Anders joined NASA. He was selected as a backup pilot for the Gemini XI and Apollo 11 flights. The Apollo 8 mission was Anders' only mission to space.

A Christmas decoration

The “Earthrise” of the Apollo 8 mission photographed by NASA astronaut William Anders. Credit: NASA

The famous “Earthrise” image, of a marble-like gibbous Earth rising above the Moon's horizon, was taken on Christmas Eve 1968 by Anders during the Apollo 8 mission. “See this orb so delicate and colorful, that to me it looked like a Christmas tree ornament, emerging over this very desolate and ugly lunar landscape, it really contrasted…” Anders said in an interview with Paul Rollins for NASA Oral History Project. Anders admitted to Rollins during the interview that his most significant contribution during Apollo 8 was taking the image of Earthrise, “which had a huge ecological and philosophical impact at the time.”

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