NASA astronaut ‘Earthrise’ dies at 90 in plane crash

Getty Images Anders in his space suitfake images

Apollo 8 astronaut Bill Anders, who took one of the most famous photographs taken in outer space, has died at the age of 90.

Authorities say a small plane he was piloting crashed into the water north of Seattle, Washington.

Anders’ son Greg confirmed that his father was piloting the plane and that his body was recovered Friday afternoon.

“The family is devastated. He was a great driver. He will be missed,” read a statement from the family.

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

Taken on Christmas Eve during the 1968 mission, the first manned spaceflight to leave Earth and reach the Moon, the image shows the planet rising above the horizon from the arid lunar surface.

Anders later described it as his most significant contribution to the space program.

NASA's Earth peeking out from behind the Moon in iconic photoPOT

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 about caring for the planet.

Speaking of the moment, Anders said: “We came here to explore the Moon, and the most important thing we discovered was the Earth.”

Authorities said on Friday that Anders crashed his plane around 11:40 PDT (1940 BST).

The US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) said the 90-year-old man was flying a Beechcraft AA 45, also known as the T-34. The agency said the plane crashed about 80 feet (25 meters) off the coast of Jones Island.

Witness Philip Person said king-tv in Seattle who saw the accident.

The plane began to do what appeared to be a loop and inverted, he told the network.

“I couldn’t believe what I was seeing in front of my eyes,” Person told the local news station. “It looked like something out of a movie or special effects. With the big explosion and the flames and everything.”

Footage purportedly captured the plane crash appears to show an effort to stop at the last second, before it breaks the surface of the water and becomes a burning wreck.

BBC News has not verified the video.

Anders also served as a backup pilot for the Apollo 11 mission, the name of the effort that led to the first moon landing on July 24, 1969.

Following his retirement from the space program in 1969, Anders worked primarily in the aerospace industry for several decades. He also served as U.S. ambassador to Norway for a year in the 1970s.

But he is best remembered for the Apollo 8 mission and the iconic photograph he took from space.

“In 1968, during Apollo 8, Bill Anders offered humanity one of the most profound gifts an astronaut can give. He traveled to the threshold of the Moon and helped us all see something else: ourselves,” said the NASA Administrator Bill Nelson in a statement.

Mark Kelly, a former astronaut who now serves as a U.S. senator from the state of Arizona, said in a post on X, formerly Twitter, that Anders “inspired me and generations of astronauts and explorers. My thoughts are with his family and friends”. .

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