Earthrise Photographer Dies | God's World News

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Earthrise Photographer Dies

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    This December 24, 1968, photo shows the Earth behind the surface of the Moon during the Apollo 8 mission. (William Anders/NASA via AP)
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    Apollo 8 lunar module pilot Williams Anders looks out a window during the spaceflight. (NASA via AP)
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    On December 21, 1968, the Saturn V rocket carrying the Apollo 8 crew launched from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. (NASA via AP)
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    William Anders speaks to reporters in front of the Apollo 11/Saturn V launch vehicle on July 20, 2004, in Washington, D.C. (AP/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
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Former Apollo 8 astronaut William Anders is perhaps best known for taking the iconic 1968 “Earthrise” photo. It revealed the planet as a shadowed blue marble. Anders died Friday when the plane he was piloting alone plummeted into the waters off the San Juan Islands in Washington state.

Anders was born October 17, 1933. He graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1955 and served as a fighter pilot in the Air Force. After his time with NASA, he served on the Atomic Energy Commission, as the U.S. chairman of the joint U.S.-U.S.S.R. technology exchange program, and as ambassador to Norway. He later worked for General Electric and General Dynamics.

Anders and his wife, Valerie, moved to Orcas Island in the San Juan archipelago in 1993. They founded the Heritage Flight Museum in Washington state in 1996.

Anders’ son, retired Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Greg Anders, confirmed his father’s death. “The family is devastated,” he says. “He was a great pilot and we will miss him terribly.” William and Valerie had six children and 13 grandchildren.

The National Transportation Safety Board and Federal Aviation Administration are investigating the crash.

The retired major general said the photo was his most significant contribution to the space program—along with making sure Apollo 8’s command module and service module worked.

The Apollo 8 mission in December 1968 was the first human spaceflight to travel to the Moon and back. It was NASA’s boldest and perhaps most dangerous voyage to that date. It set the stage for the Moon landing seven months later.

Anders’ celebrated photo was the first color image of Earth snapped in space. The photo is one of the most important photographs in modern history. After all, the image changed how humans viewed their planet. “Earthrise” showed how delicate and isolated Earth appeared from space. Many credit the photo with sparking the global environmental movement.

Anders snapped the famous image during the crew’s fourth orbit of the Moon, frantically switching from black-and-white to color film.

“Look at that picture over there!” Anders said in space. “There’s the Earth coming up. Wow, is that pretty!”

In a 1997 NASA oral history interview, Anders said he knew the Apollo 8 mission wasn’t risk-free. However, he saw important national, patriotic, and exploration reasons for going forward. He understood the crew might not make it back, but he also thought Christopher Columbus sailed with worse likelihood of success.

Anders’ interview recounted how Earth looked fragile and seemingly physically insignificant—yet was home. It’s true: God’s creation is vast, and Earth is a relatively small part. Yet Earth is also where God placed the humans He made in His own image. (Genesis 1:27)

“We’d been going backwards and upside down, didn’t really see the Earth or the Sun, and when we rolled around and came around and saw the first Earthrise,” he said, “that certainly was, by far, the most impressive thing. To see this very delicate, colorful orb which to me looked like a Christmas tree ornament coming up over this very stark, ugly lunar landscape really contrasted.”

Anders said he wished he’d taken more photos of the moment. But mission Commander Frank Borman was concerned about whether everyone was rested. He forced Anders and Command Module Pilot James A. Lovell, Jr., to sleep. Anders admitted the decision “probably made sense.”

NASA Administrator Bill Nelson says Anders embodied the lessons and the purpose of exploration. Nelson wrote on social media, “He traveled to the threshold of the Moon and helped all of us see something else: ourselves.”

He upholds the universe by the word of His power. — Hebrews 1:3