Hong Kong-born American astronaut William Anders died in a plane crash

Former U.S. astronaut William Anders, who took the historic „Earthrise” photo from space 55 years ago, died Friday in a plane crash at the age of 90, his family said.

Anders was piloting the small plane that crashed off the coast of Washington state on Friday morning, his son told US media. Anders was alone on the plane.

Astronaut William Anders, who died on January 22, 2009 in Beverly Hills, California.  Photo: Kevin Winter/Getty Images North America/AFP.
Astronaut William Anders, in Beverly Hills, California, January 22, 2009. Photo: Kevin Winter/Getty Images North America/AFP.

His body was later recovered by a dive team, The Seattle Times reported, citing a Coast Guard spokesman.

Anders, a member of the Apollo 8 mission in December 1968, became one of the first men to walk on the moon with fellow Americans Frank Borman and James Lovell.

The crew circled the moon 10 times without landing before successfully returning to Earth on December 27, 1968.

During one of the lunar orbits, Anders took a photo of the bright blue Earth against the vast blackness of space, with the crater of the moon in the foreground.

„We were going backwards and upside down, not really seeing the Earth or the Sun, until we came around and saw the first Earthrise,” he said in a 1997 NASA oral history interview.

„(T)it was certainly a very impressive thing. To see this very delicate, colorful orb that looked like a Christmas tree ornament on this stark, ugly lunar landscape.

Earth rises over the moon on Christmas Eve, December 24, 1968.  Photo: NASA/AFP. Earth rises over the moon on Christmas Eve, December 24, 1968.  Photo: NASA/AFP.
Earth rises over the moon on Christmas Eve, December 24, 1968. Photo: NASA/AFP.

The „Earthrise” photo is frequently listed in roundups of major historical images, and was included in Life magazine’s book „100 Photos That Changed the World.”

The original version of the photograph was sold at a Copenhagen auction in 2022 for 11,800 euros.

„In 1968, during Apollo 8, Bill Anders gave humanity one of the most profound gifts an astronaut can give,” NASA President Bill Nelson wrote on social media site X.

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„He traveled to the Moon’s doorstep and helped us all see something else: ourselves. He embodied the lessons and the purpose of exploration. We will miss him,” Nelson added.

’To the Moon to Find Earth’

The San Juan County Sheriff’s Office in Washington state said in a statement that local authorities received information around noon Friday that „an older model aircraft was flying north to south and then submerged in water.”

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

Born in Hong Kong on October 17, 1933, Anders graduated from the United States Naval Academy and later earned a master’s degree in nuclear engineering.

After his time as an astronaut, Anders later held various technology-related government positions, most notably becoming the first head of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and later serving as the US Ambassador to Norway.

NASA is deep spaceNASA is deep space
“NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope has produced the deepest and sharpest infrared image of the distant universe to date. Dubbed Webb’s First Deep Field, this image of galaxy cluster SMACS 0723 is bursting with detail. Photo: NASA.

In the early 1990s, he was CEO and Chairman of General Dynamics, an American defense and aerospace company, before retiring.

In a 2015 interview with Forbes, Anders said his film Earthrise gained so much attention because it showed the beauty and fragility of the planet — and „helped launch the environmental movement.”

But he wondered if the public had lost memory of the space mission that produced the photo.

„It’s interesting to me that the press and the public have forgotten about our history-making journey, and now the symbol of flight is the film 'Earthrise,'” Anders said.

„Here we come to the moon to find Earth.”

Of the Apollo 8 crew members, Lovell is the only one still alive.

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Borman died in November 2023 at the age of 95.

Lovell, 96, was also a member of the Apollo 13 mission that was supposed to land on the moon but suffered a disaster that was later made into a Hollywood movie.

Humans last set foot on the moon during the Apollo 17 mission in 1972, but NASA has set its sights on sending new astronauts, including the first woman and person of color, in the coming years.


Washington, USA

Story Type: News Service

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