NASA Astronaut Bill Anders Dead at 90 in Plane Crash


Major Bill Anders flew in space just once, and it was the first time humans ever left low Earth orbit. The “Genesis Flight” crew of Apollo 8 completed the first manned space mission to orbit the moon.

The quarter-million mile flight reached the moon on Christmas Eve 1968, and controllers in Houston wanted to know what the moon looked like up close.

The astronauts thought it looked gray, but then the commander of the mission rolled the capsule over.

Anders was the first to see the Earth rising, a stunning blue and white marble. Anders asked fellow astronaut Jim Lovell to hand him a roll of color film — as they had been photographing the barren moon in black and white. Anders fumbled with the aperture setting in order to have both the moon and Earth in focus, capturing several photos with various settings. Thankfully, one of them became the iconic photo called “Earthrise.”

“Might want to talk to Tom Cruise about that…”

Anders, 90, died Friday when a small plane he was piloting crashed off the coast of Washington state. 

The FAA confirmed that the Beech A45 with only the pilot aboard went down in the waters off Roche Harbor, which is located on San Juan Island, at about 11:40 a.m. local time.

Anders’ son, retired Air Force Lt. Col. Greg Anders, confirmed his death to AP News saying, “The family is devastated. He was a great pilot and we will miss him terribly.”

Salon, CBS, NPR