William Anders, Apollo 8 astronaut who took ‘Earthrise’ photo, dies in plane crash at 90

The “Earthrise” photo was an unexpected surprise. Anders’ main job during the orbit of the moon was to take photos of the lunar surface.

On the third pass, they saw the Earth rising over the horizon.

“Oh my God! Look at that picture over there,” he said while on the space mission. There’s the Earth coming up. Wow, that’s pretty.”

Borman, the commander, joked that he shouldn’t take the photo, because it wasn’t on the flight plan.

“When the Earth came up over the lunar horizon, that’s when it really impressed me as to how much more delicate the Earth was, and colorful,” Anders said in an interview on the “TODAY” show in 2018 to mark the 50th anniversary of the groundbreaking mission.

Anders said in that interview that he believed he had a one in three chance of not surviving the Apollo 8 mission.

After about 25 hours of flight, Anders started taking pictures. A photo of the full Earth from space in full color, the first ever, is Anders’ favorite shot.

Anders was born in Hong Kong on Oct. 17, 1933. He had four sons and two daughters.

He was also the backup pilot for the Gemini XI mission and Apollo 11 mission in which the first humans actually landed on the moon on July 20, 1969.

The National Transportation Safety Board said that the plane that crashed was a Beech A45, and that the agency is investigating the crash.

Sen. Mark Kelly, D-Arizona, who is a former astronaut, wrote on X that Anders was an inspiration.

“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,” Kelly wrote.

Anders was a fighter pilot in the Air Force in interception squadrons and he was selected to be an astronaut in 1964. He joked to NBC’s Harry Smith in 2018 that, “I’m probably the world’s best fighter pilot, but we don’t talk about that.”

“I must say, even today if I look up and see that little crescent moon, my hair kind of goes up on the back of my neck a little bit,” Anders said then.

CORRECTION (June 7, 2024, 10:45 p.m. ET): An earlier version of this article misstated when the Apollo 11 moon landing took place. It was July 20, 1969, not July 24.

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