Apollo 8 astronaut William Anders dies in plane crash

    The Hawk
    June8/ 2024
    Last Updated:

    William Anders, a distinguished NASA astronaut and member of the historic Apollo 8 crew, tragically died in a plane crash in Washington state's San Juan Islands.

    NASA astronaut William Anders

    San Juan Islands (Washington): William Anders, renowned NASA astronaut and member of the groundbreaking Apollo 8 crew, died in a plane crash in Washington state, as confirmed by his son, Gregory Anders, CNN reported.
    The 90-year-old space pioneer met his untimely demise in an aircraft incident in the San Juan Islands.
    My "dad passed in an aircraft incident in the San Juan Islands," Anders told CNN Friday evening.
    The San Juan County Sheriff's Office issued a statement disclosing that an aircraft had crashed off the coast of Jones Island. The initial report, received around 11:40 am PT, indicated that an "older model plane was flying from north to south then went into the water near the north end of Jones Island and sunk."
    San Juan Sheriff Eric Peter relayed to CNN via email that the dive team was deployed to conduct a search at the scene.
    In the wake of the tragedy, the Anders family is grappling with profound grief. "The family is devastated and grieving the loss of a great pilot," Gregory Anders expressed.
    The San Juan Islands are situated approximately 90 miles north of Seattle.
    William Anders, born on October 17, 1933, in Hong Kong, embarked on a remarkable journey marked by exemplary service and pioneering achievements. Graduating from the United States Naval Academy in 1955, he was commissioned in the US Air Force the following year, earning his pilot's wings. Anders' tenure included serving as a fighter pilot in all-weather interception squadrons of the Air Defense Command in California and Iceland.
    His tenure at the Air Force Weapons Laboratory in New Mexico was characterised by his pivotal role in managing nuclear power reactor shielding and radiation effects programs.
    Selected as an astronaut by NASA in 1964, Anders' contributions to space exploration were significant and enduring. He served as backup pilot for the Gemini 11 mission in 1966 and the iconic Apollo 11 flight in 1969. With over 6,000 hours of flying time, his expertise and dedication were unparalleled.
    A pivotal moment in his career came in December 1968 when Anders, alongside Jim Lovell and mission commander Frank Borman, embarked on the historic Apollo 8 mission, becoming the first humans to orbit the moon. Anders assumed the role of lunar module pilot for this groundbreaking flight.
    During the mission, Anders immortalised a moment of profound significance with his iconic photograph titled "Earthrise," capturing Earth's beauty against the backdrop of the lunar surface. His poignant reflection on this moment resonates deeply: "We came all this way to explore the moon, and the most important thing is that we discovered the Earth."
    This legendary image, described as such by NASA, encapsulates Anders' profound realisation of Earth's fragility and our place within the cosmos.
    "Suddenly I looked out the window, and here was this gorgeous orb coming up," Anders described of Earth.
    "For me, it made me realise that the earth was small, delicate and not the center of the universe," Anders said.
    Time Magazine recognised Anders, Lovell, and Borman as "Men of the Year" in 1968, acknowledging their extraordinary contributions to humanity's understanding of the universe.
    Following his illustrious career with NASA, Anders assumed leadership roles of national significance, including serving as Executive Secretary for the National Aeronautics and Space Council from 1969 to 1973. President Gerald Ford appointed him as the inaugural chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, a position of critical importance for nuclear safety and environmental compatibility.
    NASA administrator Bill Nelson said in a post on X, on Friday: "Bill Anders offered to humanity among the deepest of gifts an astronaut can give. He traveled to the threshold of the Moon and helped all of us see something else: ourselves."
    Nelson continued: "He embodied the lessons and the purpose of exploration. We will miss him."
    In addition to his professional achievements, Anders cherished family life alongside his wife, Valerie, with whom he shared two daughters and four sons, CNN reported.