NASA astronaut William Anders who shot iconic 'Earthrise' photo dies in plane crash aged 90

8 June 2024, 19:04

William Anders, the astronaut who took the iconic 'Earthrise' photo while on the Apollo 8 mission to the Moon, has died in a plan crash aged 90.
William Anders, the astronaut who took the iconic 'Earthrise' photo while on the Apollo 8 mission to the Moon, has died in a plan crash aged 90. Picture: Alamy

By Charlie Duffield

William Anders, the astronaut who took the iconic 'Earthrise' photo while on the Apollo 8 mission to the Moon, has died in a plan crash aged 90.

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The 90-year-old astronaut who took the first colour photo of Earth from space has died in a plane crash in the US.

William Anders was the only person on board the small aircraft he was piloting when it nosedived off the coast of Jones Island, close by to Washington state on Friday.

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His death was confirmed by his son Greg Anders, who said the family is "devastated".

He added: "He was a great pilot and we will miss him terribly."

Mr Anders circled the moon with Apollo 8 in December 1968, in the first human spaceflight to leave Earth's orbit.

He managed to capture what has become one of the most iconic photographers ever taken - a photo of Earth rising over the lunar horizon.

illiam Anders, a NASA astronaut who was part of the 1968 Apollo 8 crew who were the first three people to orbit the moon, has died in a plane crash
Anders managed to capture what has become one of the most iconic photographers ever taken - a photo of Earth rising over the lunar horizon. Picture: Alamy

In a 1997 NASA oral history interview, he said that he thought there was approximately a one in three chance the crew would not make it back, and the same chance of success.

He added that Christopher Columbus might have sailed with worse odds, but that there were valid reasons to pursue the mission.

He added: "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, colourful orb, which to me looked like a Christmas tree ornament coming up over this very stark, ugly lunar landscape really contrasted."

June 8, 2024: WILLIAM ANDERS, a NASA astronaut who was part of the 1968 Apollo 8 crew who were the first three people to orbit the moon
William Anders was the only person on board the small aircraft he was piloting when it nosedived off the coast of Jones Island, close by to Washington state on Friday. Picture: Alamy

The photo is thought to have spurred the global environment movement for revealing the delicacy and isolation of planet Earth.

Then seven months later, the first moon landing by Apollo 11 took place, with Neil Armstrong stepping on to the moon.

It was said to lift national spirits following the Vietnam war, with riots and assassinations in the US.

Senator Mark Kelly, who is also a retired NASA astronaut, wrote on X: "Bill Anders forever changed our perspective of our planet and ourselves with his famous Earthrise photo on Apollo 8."

"He inspired me and generations of astronauts and explorers. My thoughts are with his family and friends."

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