Home » Apollo 8 Astronaut William Anders Dies in Plane Crash at Age 90

Apollo 8 Astronaut William Anders Dies in Plane Crash at Age 90

by Mohammed Ahmed

Retired Maj. Gen. William Anders, the renowned Apollo 8 astronaut who captured the iconic “Earthrise” photograph, died on Friday when the plane he was piloting crashed into the waters off the San Juan Islands in Washington state. He was 90 years old. The tragic news was confirmed by his son, Greg Anders, to The Associated Press.

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

William Anders’s photograph of Earth, taken during the Apollo 8 mission in 1968, became a powerful symbol of the planet’s fragility and beauty. This image, showing Earth as a shadowed blue marble against the blackness of space and the stark lunar surface, has had a lasting ecological and philosophical impact. In addition to this, Anders played a crucial role in ensuring the success of the Apollo 8 mission by overseeing the command and service modules.

The San Juan County Sheriff, Eric Peter, reported that the crash occurred around 11:40 a.m. near the north end of Jones Island. The Federal Aviation Association confirmed that the only person on board the older-model Beech A45 airplane was Anders himself.

In a 1997 NASA oral history interview, Anders reflected on the risks of the Apollo 8 mission, estimating a one in three chance of either a successful mission, a failure to start, or the crew not making it back. He compared these odds to those faced by historical explorers like Christopher Columbus.

During the interview, Anders recounted the awe-inspiring moment of witnessing Earthrise: “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. That certainly was, by far, the most impressive thing. To see this very delicate, colorful orb which to me looked like a Christmas tree ornament coming up over this very stark, ugly lunar landscape really contrasted.”

Anders’s contributions to space exploration and his iconic photograph have left an indelible mark on history. His sudden death is a profound loss to his family and the broader community that admired his achievements.

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