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Apollo 8 Earthrise Astronaut Bill Anders Dies Plane Crash Aviation Week Network

Former NASA astronaut Bill Anders, first to photograph Earth from space, dies in plane crash. Legacy of space exploration remembered.

Former NASA astronaut Bill Anders, a pioneer in space exploration, passed away on June 7 in a tragic plane crash off the San Juan Islands near Seattle. At the age of 90, Anders was piloting the Beechcraft T-34 Mentor alone at the time of the accident.

Anders had an impressive background, having been educated at the U.S. Naval Academy and the Air Force Institute of Technology. He was a nuclear engineer and Air Force fighter pilot before being selected by NASA for astronaut training in 1964. Anders made history as the lunar module pilot for NASA's Apollo 8 mission in December 1968, becoming the first to photograph the Earth in color from space.

During the Apollo 8 mission, Anders, along with commander Frank Borman and command module pilot James Lovell, orbited the Moon 10 times over six days. They were the first humans to witness the far side of the Moon and capture the iconic "Earthrise" photograph, showing the Earth suspended against the darkness of space.

Anders' legacy extends beyond his groundbreaking space photography. His profound statement at the end of the mission, "We came all this way to explore the Moon, and the most important thing is that we discovered the Earth," resonates with the essence of space exploration. NASA Administrator Bill Nelson paid tribute to Anders, emphasizing his embodiment of the purpose of exploration and the quest for knowledge.

Throughout his career, Anders contributed significantly to the space program, serving as a backup for Gemini 8 and Apollo 11 missions. He later held executive positions at General Electric, Textron, and General Dynamics after retiring from the federal government in 1994.

Anders' impact on space exploration and his dedication to understanding the universe will be remembered as humanity continues its journey to the Moon and beyond. His legacy will live on as astronauts embark on future missions under the Artemis campaign and set their sights on Mars, carrying with them the spirit of discovery and the lessons learned from Anders' remarkable career.

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