Space Pioneer Bill Anders Perishes in Plane Accident

Bill Anders, the astronaut who captured the now-iconic "Earthrise" photograph during the Apollo 8 mission in 1968, died on Friday in a plane crash. He was 90 years old.

Anders' son, Greg, confirmed his father's death, stating that he was the sole occupant of the small aircraft when it went down off the coast of Washington State's Jones Island. The cause of the crash is still under investigation.

The "Earthrise" photo, which depicted our planet as a vibrant blue marble suspended against the vast darkness of space, is credited with inspiring the environmental movement and fostering a new perspective on humanity's place in the universe. The image, taken as the Apollo 8 crew orbited the Moon, served as a powerful reminder of Earth's fragility and beauty.

Beyond the enduring legacy of the "Earthrise" photo, Anders played a critical role in the Apollo 8 mission itself. As the Lunar Module Pilot, he piloted the spacecraft during its historic ten orbits of the Moon, paving the way for the Apollo 11 lunar landing the following year.

Born in Oklahoma in 1933, Anders served in the United States Air Force before joining NASA's astronaut program in 1963. He was initially selected for the Gemini program but was later assigned to Apollo 8. Following Apollo 8, Anders served as the backup crew member for Apollo 11 and left NASA in 1971 to pursue a career in business.

News of Anders' death has been met with an outpouring of tributes from the spacefaring community and beyond. Former NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine called Anders "a true American hero" whose "contributions to space exploration helped to shape our understanding of our place in the cosmos. "

Environmental leaders also acknowledged the impact of the "Earthrise" photo. The director of the Sierra Club, Michael Brune, stated that the image "served as a wake-up call to a generation, " highlighting the need to protect our planet.

Bill Anders' passing marks the end of an era in space exploration. He was one of the last remaining astronauts from the Apollo missions, a group of pioneers who ventured beyond our planet and brought humanity face-to-face with the Earth's extraordinary place in the universe.

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