William Anders, former Apollo 8 astronaut, killed in plane crash at 90

BEVERLY HILLS, CA - JANUARY 22:  Astronaut Maj. Gen. William Anders arrives at the 6th Annual Living Legends of Aviation Awards ceremony at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on January 22, 2009 in Beverly Hills, California.  (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

Former Apollo 8 astronaut, retired Maj. Gen. William Anders died Friday in a plane crash near the San Juan Island in Washington. He was 90 years old.

William Anders’ son, Greg Anders, confirmed the news of his death to The Associated Press.

“The family is devastated,” Greg Anders said, according to the AP. “He was a great pilot and we will miss him terribly.”

San Juan County Sheriff Eric Peter said that a report came in just after 11:30 a.m. Friday that a plane crashed into the water by the north end of Jones Island, the AP reported. The Federal Aviation Association said that only the pilot was on the plane when the crash happened. The plane was a Beech A45.

The National Transportation Safety Board and FAA are investigating the crash.

William Anders was known for his “Earthrise” photograph from the lunar orbit and became one of the most recognized images during the 20th century, Bloomberg reported. The photo was taken during the 1968 Apollo 8 mission, The New York Times reported.

The photo was reproduced into a postage stamp in 1969 that said “In the beginning God...,” the newspaper reported.

He was part of the first group of men who left Earth’s orbit alongside Col. Frank Borman and Capt. James Lovell Jr., the Times reported.

Anders was born on Oct. 17, 1933, in Hong Kong, the Times reported.

William Anders got his pilot wings in 1956 and then pursued a master’s degree in nuclear engineering from the U.S. Air Force Institute of Technology at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio, the newspaper reported. About a year later, he joined the third class of astronauts at NASA.

He retired from NASA and the Air Force in 1969. He went on to take a position as executive secretary of the National Aeronautics and Space Council, a presidential advisory unit. According to the Times, he retired from the Air Force Reserves in 1988.

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