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Apollo Astronaut Dies in Plane Crash

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Former Apollo 8 astronaut and retired Major General William Anders perished in a plane crash off the coast of the San Juan Islands, Washington. He was 90 years old.

Best remembered for taking the “Earthrise” photograph during the 1968 Apollo 8 mission, Anders’ death is a significant loss for the space exploration community.

The fatal crash occurred on June 7, 2024, around 11:40 a.m. local time, when the Beech A45 plane that Anders was piloting alone went down near Roche Harbor, Washington. The incident was confirmed by the U.S. Coast Guard Pacific Northwest, and search and rescue operations were undertaken by Air Station Port Angeles and Station Port Angeles.

Greg Anders, the son of the deceased and a retired Air Force Lt. Col., announced his father’s death to The Associated Press, saying, “The family is heartbroken. He was an exceptional pilot, and we will miss him deeply.” Greg stated that his father’s body was recovered shortly following the crash.

Born on October 17, 1933, in Hong Kong, William Alison Anders was the son of a Navy lieutenant. He grew up in San Diego, California, and graduated from the United States Naval Academy at the age of 22. He later obtained a master’s degree in nuclear engineering from the Air Force Institute of Technology. Selected by NASA in 1964, he served as a backup pilot for both Gemini XI and Apollo 11 missions and as the lunar module pilot for Apollo 8.

For the Apollo 8 mission, Anders worked alongside Navy veteran James Lovell and Air Force veteran Frank Borman. From their command module orbiting the Moon, Anders captured the iconic “Earthrise” photograph. In a 2015 Forbes interview, he reflected on the image’s importance, stating, “The view highlights the beauty and fragility of Earth.” This photo is recognized as a catalyst for the global environmental movement.

Anders concluded his tenure with the Air Force and NASA in 1969 and transitioned to a variety of notable positions. He served as the executive secretary of the National Aeronautics and Space Council, chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and U.S. ambassador to Norway. In the private sector, Anders held the dual roles of chairman and CEO at General Dynamics.

In 1996, Anders and his wife Valerie founded the Heritage Flight Museum in Washington. Now located in Burlington, Washington, the museum showcases aircraft, military vehicles, and various artifacts from Anders’ distinguished career.

The exact cause of the accident is currently under investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board and the FAA.

William Anders is survived by his wife, Valerie; his sons, Greg, Alan, Glen, and Eric; and his daughters, Diana and Gayle. His legacy continues to thrive through his notable contributions to space exploration and environmental preservation.

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