June 22, 2024

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William Anders, the Apollo 8 astronaut who took the Earthrise image, died in a plane crash

William Anders, the Apollo 8 astronaut who took the Earthrise image, died in a plane crash

SEATTLE (AP) — William Anders, ex Apollo 8 The astronaut who took the famous “Earthrise” photo showing the planet as a shaded blue marble from space in 1968 was killed Friday when the plane he was piloting alone plunged into the waters off the San Juan Islands in Washington state. He was 90 years old.

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

“The family was devastated,” he said. “He was a great pilot and will be sorely missed.”

William Anders, a retired major general, said the photo was his most important contribution to the space program along with ensuring that Apollo 8’s command module and service module were working.

This image, the first color image of Earth from space, is one of the most important images in modern history for the way it changed the way humans view the planet. The image is credited with sparking a global environmental movement to show how delicate and isolated Earth appears from space.

NASA Administrator and former Senator Bill Nelson said Anders embodied the lessons and purpose of exploration.

“He traveled to the threshold of the moon and helped us all see something else: ourselves,” Nelson wrote on the social media platform X.

Anders took the photo during the crew’s fourth orbit around the Moon, frantically switching from black-and-white to color film.

“Oh my God, look at that picture over there!” Anders said. “Here comes the Earth. Wow, is this beautiful!”

the Apollo 8 mission In December 1968 it was the first manned spaceflight to leave low Earth orbit and travel back and forth to the Moon. It was NASA’s most daring and perhaps riskiest flight to date and one that paved the way for the Apollo moon landing seven months later.

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“Bill Anders forever changed our view of our planet and ourselves with his famous Earthrise image aboard Apollo 8,” Arizona Sen. Mark Kelly, also a retired NASA astronaut, wrote on X. He added: “He inspired me and generations of astronauts and explorers. My thoughts are with his family and friends.”

A report came in around 11:40 a.m. 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. Greg Anders confirmed to KING-TV that his father’s body was recovered Friday afternoon.

Only the pilot was on board the Beech A45 at the time, according to the FAA.

The National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration are investigating the accident.

William Anders said in 1997 NASA Oral History He said in an interview that he did not believe the Apollo 8 mission was without risk but that there were important national, national and exploratory reasons for moving forward. He estimated that there was about a one in three chance that the crew would not return, the same chance that the mission would succeed, and the same chance that the mission would not start from the beginning. He said he suspected Christopher Columbus sailed with worse odds.

He recounted how the land seemed fragile and insignificant, but it was home.

“We were going backwards and upside down, not really seeing the Earth or the sun, when we turned around and saw the first Earthrise,” he said. “This was certainly, by far, the most impressive thing. Seeing this delicate, colorful orb that looked to me like a Christmas tree ornament appear above this stark, very ugly lunar landscape, was truly jarring.”

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Anders later said he wished he had taken more photos, but mission commander Frank Borman was concerned about whether everyone was comfortable and forced Anders and command module pilot James A. Lovell Jr. to sleep, “which probably made sense.”

He served as a backup crew for Apollo 11 and Gemini 11 in 1966, but Apollo 8 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 Navy lieutenant aboard the USS Panai, an American gunboat on China’s Yangtze River.

Anders and his wife, Valerie, founded the Heritage Aviation Museum in Washington state in 1996. It is now based at a regional airport in Burlington, and includes 15 aircraft, several antique military vehicles, a library, and many artifacts donated by veterans, according to what the “NB” website reported. bad”. Museum website. Two of his sons helped him manage it.

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

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

He later served on the Atomic Energy Commission, as U.S. Chairman of the Joint U.S.-Soviet Technology Exchange Program for Nuclear Fission and Nuclear Fusion Energy, and as Ambassador to Norway. He later worked for General Electric and General Dynamics, according to him NASA biography.

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Associated Press writer Lisa Bowman contributed to this report.