William Anders, one of the Apollo 8 astronauts, died in a plane crash on Friday. Anders took the historic "Earthrise" photograph from space 55 years ago.

According to his son's statement to the US media, Anders was the pilot of a small aircraft that crashed off the coast of Washington state on Friday morning. Anders was alone in the aircraft. Teams continue their search in the area, but said they have not yet reached a funeral.


As a member of the Apollo 8 mission in December 1968, Anders, along with fellow Americans Frank Borman and James Lovell, became one of the first humans to reach the Moon.

The crew orbited the Moon ten times without landing before successfully returning to Earth on 27 December 1968.

In lunar orbit, Anders managed to take a photograph of the bright blue Earth against the vast darkness of space. In the foreground was the cratered surface of the Moon.

Apollo 8 astronaut dies in aeroplane crash - 1William Anders' photograph of "The Birth of the World".

The "Birth of the World" photograph is frequently included in lists of important historical images. It was also included in Life Magazine's "100 Photographs That Changed the World" book.

An original version of the photograph was sold for 11,800 euros at an auction in Copenhagen in 2022.

"In 1968, during Apollo 8, Anders presented humanity with one of the most profound gifts an astronaut can give," NASA chief Bill Nelson shared on the social media platform X.


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Nelson continued in his post, "He went to the brink of the Moon and helped us all see something else: ourselves. He embodied the lessons and purpose of exploration. We will miss him," Nelson wrote.

Born on 17 October 1933 in Hong Kong, Anders graduated from the US Naval Academy and later earned a master's degree in nuclear engineering.


After serving as an astronaut, Anders held various technology-related government positions, notably as the first chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and later as US Ambassador to Norway.

He went on to head the US defence and aerospace company General Dynamics as CEO and chairman before retiring in the early 1990s.

The last time humans set foot on the Moon was in 1972 during the Apollo 17 mission, but NASA aims to send new astronauts to the Moon in the coming years, including the first woman and person of colour.

Editor: David Goodman