William Anders, Apollo 8 Astronaut Who Captured Earthrise Photo, Killed in Plane Crash

A retired major general and former astronaut who took one of the most important photographs in human history has died in a plane crash. William Anders, the Apollo 8 astronaut who took the iconic "Earthrise" photo showing the planet as a shadowed blue marble from space in 1968, was killed Friday when the plane he was piloting alone plummeted into the waters off the San Juan Islands in Washington state.

He was 90. Only the pilot was on board the Beech A45 airplane, according to the Federal Aviation Administration. William Anders took the photo during the crew's fourth orbit of the moon, frantically switching from black-and-white to color film. "Oh my God, look at that picture over there," Anders said. "There's the Earth coming up. Wow, is that pretty!"

The photo is credited with sparking the global environmental movement for showing how delicate and isolated Earth appeared from space. NASA Administrator and former Sen. Bill Nelson wrote on the social platform X that Anders embodied the lessons and the purpose of exploration. "He traveled to the threshold of the Moon and helped all of us see something else: ourselves," Nelson wrote.

Anders and his wife, Valerie, founded the Heritage Flight Museum in Washington state in 1996. It is now based at a regional airport in Burlington, and features 15 aircrafts, several antique military vehicles, a library, and many artifacts donated by veterans, according to the museum's website. Two of his sons helped him run it. The couple moved to Orcas Island, in the San Juan archipelago, in 1993, and kept a second home in their hometown of San Diego, according to a biography on the museum's website. They had six children and 13 grandchildren.

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