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09th Jun 2024

90-year-old Apollo 8 astronaut killed in plane crash

Ryan Price

He was a key part of the 1968 mission to the Moon.

Apollo 8 astronaut Bill Anders has died tragically at the age of 90 in a plane crash off the western coast of the US.

Anders, who took one of the most iconic photographs ever taken in outer space, died when the small aircraft he was flying crashed into the sea off the coast of Washington state.

The news was confirmed by the legendary astronaut’s son, Greg, who told KING5 News in Seattle: “The family is devastated. He was a great pilot. He will be missed.”

Officials said that Anders’ plane crashed at around 11:40PDT (19:40BST).

The US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) said the 90-year-old was flying a Beechcraft A A 45 – also known as a T-34. The agency said that the plane crashed about 80ft (25m) from the coast of Jones Island.

Anders was a lunar module pilot on the Apollo 8 mission of 1968, and took the iconic Earthrise photograph – one of the most memorable and inspirational images of Earth from space.

A view of the Earth beyond the lunar horizon, taken from the Apollo 8 spacecraft while in orbit around the Moon, by crewmember Bill Anders, 24th December 1968. (Photo by Space Frontiers/Getty Images)

Taken on Christmas Eve, the picture shows the planet rising above the horizon from the barren lunar surface.

The image is widely credited with motivating the global environmental movement and leading to the creation of Earth Day, an annual event to promote activism and awareness of caring for the planet.

A statement Anders made about the snap when back on earth is considered one of the great quotes in NASA history.

He said: “We came all this way to explore the Moon, and the most important thing that we discovered was the Earth.”

Anders also served as the backup pilot to the Apollo 11 mission, that led to the first Moon landing on July 20, 1969.

Following Anders’ retirement from the space programme in 1969, the former astronaut largely worked in the aerospace industry for several decades.

He also served as US Ambassador to Norway for a year in the 1970s.

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