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William Anders, Apollo 8 Astronaut, Dies At 90 In Plane Crash

 June 8, 2024

American astronaut William Anders, renowned for capturing the iconic "Earthrise" photo during the Apollo 8 mission, has died in a plane crash at the age of 90.

The tragic incident occurred on Friday when Anders' vintage Air Force T-34 Mentor plane crashed off the Washington coast and is currently under investigation, as the New York Post reports.

Anders, an esteemed astronaut and Air Force veteran, met a tragic end on Friday when his vintage aircraft plummeted into the waters off San Juan Islands. The crash took place around 11:45 a.m. between Orcas Island and Jones Island.

Anders was the sole occupant of the T-34 Mentor, a vintage Air Force plane that has been in his possession for years. The airplane crash landed into the sea, creating a fiery spectacle captured on video as it nosedived while completing a loop.

Anders' Body Recovered After Six Hours

Tragically, Anders' body was not recovered until approximately six hours post-crash. His son, Greg Anders, spoke to KING 5 News, expressing the family’s sorrow. "The family is devastated," said Greg. "He was a great pilot, and we will miss him terribly."

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) confirmed that only Anders was on board during the crash. The cause of the crash remains undetermined as authorities embark on a thorough investigation.

Dramatic footage of the crash shows Anders' plane performing a loop before suddenly diving into the ocean, engulfed in flames upon impact. The graphic nature of the crash underscores the dangerous nature of flying vintage aircraft.

Iconic Earthrise Photo Among Anders' Legacies

Anders is widely celebrated for snapping the "Earthrise" photo during the 1968 Apollo 8 mission, the first spacecraft journey that orbited the moon. This image has left an indelible mark on humanity, forever changing our perspective of Earth.

During Apollo 8, Anders and his colleagues, Frank Borman and Jim Lovell, became the first humans to see the far side of the moon and witness Earth from space. The mission's success greatly contributed to the eventual moon landing by Apollo 11.

NASA Administrator Bill Nelson lauded Anders for his contributions. “Bill Anders offered to humanity among the deepest of gifts an astronaut can give," said Nelson. “He embodied the lessons and the purpose of exploration. We will miss him.”

Anders' Distinguished Career and Life on Orcas Island

Beyond his fame as an astronaut, William Anders was dedicated to public service. He served in various capacities, including positions in the National Aeronautics and Space Council and the Atomic Energy Commission over a span of 26 years.

As a decorated Air Force veteran, Anders' flying skills were highly regarded by peers and family alike. His career in the Air Force was a testament to his commitment to his country and to the advancement of aerospace technology.

Since 1993, Anders lived peacefully with his wife, Valerie, on Orcas Island. Their life on the island was marked by a close-knit community and the serene beauty of the Pacific Northwest.

Remembering Anders' Impact on Space Exploration

Arizona Sen. Mark Kelly, who also flew as a NASA astronaut, shared his appreciation for Anders’ legacy. "Anders forever changed our perspective of our planet and ourselves with his famous Earthrise photo on Apollo 8," Kelly remarked. "He inspired me and generations of astronauts and explorers. My thoughts are with his family and friends."

The space community and the world mourn the loss of a man who has inspired countless individuals through his work and achievements. Charles Bolden, former NASA Administrator, once mentioned how Anders' photography inspired environmental movements by showcasing Earth's fragile beauty.

The tragic incident off the Washington coast has left an indelible mark on the Anders family, his colleagues, and the community on Orcas Island. Greg Anders’ grief was evident as he shared details of his father’s passing.

While the cause of the crash is still under investigation, the legacy of William Anders is crystal clear. From his iconic Earthrise photo to his lifelong dedication to aerospace and public service, Anders has cemented his place in history.

A Final Farewell to a Space Legend

The tragic passing of William Anders in a plane crash marks the end of an era for one of NASA’s iconic figures. His contributions to space exploration and his ability to capture the profound beauty of our planet continue to inspire.

As investigations continue into the crash of Anders’ vintage Air Force T-34 Mentor, the world bids farewell to a celebrated astronaut, a dedicated veteran, and a pioneering photographer who forever changed how humanity perceives Earth.

The life and work of William Anders will remain etched in our memories, a legacy of exploration, adventure, and an enduring vision of our place in the universe.