Retired Apollo 8 Astronaut Dies in Tragic Plane Crash

San Juan Islands, California – Retired Apollo 8 astronaut, Maj. Gen. William Anders, tragically lost his life when the plane he was piloting crashed into the ocean off the coast of Washington state. He was 90 years old. Anders, known for capturing the iconic “Earthrise” image during the 1968 Apollo 8 mission, leaves behind a legacy of contributions to space exploration and environmental awareness.

Greg Anders, the late astronaut’s son, confirmed the devastating news of his father’s death, stating, “The family is devastated. He was a great pilot and we will miss him terribly.” The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reported that the crash involved a Beechcraft T-34 Mentor plane and occurred at around 11:40 a.m. local time on Friday, June 7.

The U.S. Coast Guard Pacific Northwest also confirmed the incident, launching a search and rescue operation near Roche Harbor, Washington.

Born in Hong Kong in 1933, Anders later grew up in San Diego, California. He graduated from the United States Naval Academy and later earned a master’s degree in nuclear engineering from the Air Force Institute of Technology. Selected by NASA in 1962, he served as an astronaut involved in various missions including Gemini XI and as a backup pilot for Apollo 11.

During the Apollo 8 mission, Anders, along with Frank F. Borman II and James A. Lovell Jr., captured the “Earthrise” image while their command module floated above the lunar surface. After leaving NASA in 1969, Anders held several prestigious positions, including executive secretary of the National Aeronautics and Space Council and chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

William Anders’ death is a significant loss to the space exploration community. He leaves behind his wife Valerie and six children. The National Transportation Safety Board and FAA are currently investigating the crash, seeking to determine the cause of this tragic accident.