William A. Anders, 90, dies; Flew into the first manned orbit of the Moon

Maj. William A. Anders, who flew on the first manned space mission to orbit the Moon, Apollo 8’s “Genesis Flight” on Christmas Eve 1968, and took the color photograph “Earthrise,” credited with inspiring the modern environmental movement, died Friday when a small plane he was piloting alone plunged into water near Roche Harbor, Washington, northwest of Seattle. He was 90 years old.

His son Greg confirmed his death.

Major Anders, accompanied by the colonel. Frank Borman, both of the Air Force, and Capt. James A. Lovell Jr. of the Navy, was among the first group of astronauts to leave the confines of Earth’s orbit. During their mission, they took photos and films of the lunar surface in preparation for the Apollo 11 fight, when men first walked on the Moon, and they were the first astronauts sent into the air by a giant Saturn V rocket.

Beyond these milestones, their mission was seen as a brief revival of the spirits of an America stunned by increasing casualties in the Vietnam War, the assassinations of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy, as well as tumultuous anti-war protests and racial unrest.

On Christmas Eve, during their 10 orbits around the Moon, the three astronauts, whose movements were broadcast to millions around the world, took photos of the Earth as it rose to the -above the lunar horizon, appearing like a blue marble in the middle of the darkness of the sky. But only Major Anders, who oversaw their spacecraft’s electronics and communications systems, shot color film.

His photo shook the world. Known as “Earthrise”, it was reproduced in a 1969 postage stamp bearing the words “In the beginning, God…”. He was an inspiration for the first Earth Day, in 1970, and appeared on the cover of Life magazine’s 2003 book “100 Photographs That Changed the World.” Just before Major Anders began taking photos, the astronauts, as captured by the on-board recorder moments, could be heard expressing their awe at what they had seen:

Anders: Oh my God! Look at that photo over there. Here is the Earth that appears. Wow, that’s pretty.

Borman: [chuckle] Hey, don’t take that, it’s not planned.

Anderson: [laughter] “Do you have color film, Jim?” Quickly give me that roll of color, would you…

Lovell: “Oh man, that’s awesome.”

Decades later, in a 2015 interview with Forbes magazine, Major Anders said of Earthrise: “The view emphasizes the beauty of the Earth and its fragility. This helped launch the environmental movement.

But he said he was surprised at how much the public’s memory of the people behind the photo had faded. “I find it curious that the press and people on the ground have somehow forgotten our historic journey, and what now symbolizes this flight is the image of ‘Earthrise,'” he said. . “Here we went to the Moon to discover the Earth.”

To close their Christmas Eve television broadcast, the Apollo 8 astronauts read the first passage from the book of Genesis.

Major Anders was the first reader: “In the beginning God created heaven and earth. And the Earth was formless and empty; And darkness was on the surface of the deep.

William Alison Anders was born on October 1st. born December 17, 1933 in Hong Kong, where he lived with his mother, Muriel Adams Anders, while his father, Lt. Arthur Anders, a career Navy man, served as an officer on the gunboat Panay on patrol along the Yangtze River in China.

After a stay in Annapolis, Maryland, the family returned to China, with her father stationed aboard the Panay, once again, as second in command. But after a Japanese attack on Beijing in July 1937, triggering the start of the Sino-Japanese War, Bill and his mother fled to the Philippines.

In December, as the Panay was evacuating Americans from China, Japanese planes bombed and machine-gunned the ship.

Its captain is seriously injured and Lieutenant Anders, also injured, nevertheless takes command and orders the boat’s machine gunners to fire on the Japanese planes. He also oversaw the evacuation of the boat before it sank, for which he received the Navy Cross, the service’s highest award for valor after the Medal of Honor.

The episode, known as the Panay Incident, increased tensions between the United States and Japan, which only four years later would attack Pearl Harbor, drawing America into World War II.

Bill Anders returned to the United States, attended Grossmont High School in San Diego County, California, and became fascinated by tales of world-famous explorations. Following his father’s path, he entered the Naval Academy and graduated in 1955, intending to become a pilot. He earned a commission in the Air Force, viewing it as more attuned than the Navy to breakthroughs in aeronautical science.

He received his pilot’s wings in 1956 and served as a fighter pilot in interceptor squadrons in California and Iceland tracking down Soviet heavy bombers that challenged the United States’ air defense frontiers. In 1962, he earned a master’s degree in nuclear engineering from the U.S. Air Force Institute of Technology at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio. A year later, he joined NASA’s third class of astronauts, although he lacked experience as a test pilot, the traditional route of flight for the agency.

At NASA, Major Anders became a specialist in space radiation, the effects of which were considered a potential danger to future astronauts. He also trained on a module that would be used to transport astronauts from a capsule orbiting the Moon to the lunar surface, the future lunar lander.

Apollo 8 was designed to orbit Earth with the module, which Major Anders would test in flight. But its development was delayed and so the mission was rescheduled for a lunar orbit, without the module, a premature and risky attempt to beat the Russians by circling the lunar surface. The mission was a huge success, and its astronauts were saluted in parades in New York, Chicago and Washington and appeared before a joint session of Congress.

In 1969, Major Anders retired from NASA and the Air Force, having accepted a position as executive secretary of the National Aeronautics and Space Council, a presidential advisory unit.

He later served as a member of the Atomic Energy Commission, the first chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and ambassador to Norway. After leaving public service, he held executive positions at General Electric and Textron and served as chairman and CEO of General Dynamics, a major defense contractor.

He retired from the Air Force Reserve in 1988 as a major general.

A list of survivors was not immediately available.

He is survived by his wife, Valerie (Howard) Anders; his sons Alan, Glen, Greg and Eric; and his daughters, Gayle and Diana.

Although 12 Americans would walk on the Moon, Mr. Anders was not one of them, Apollo 8 being his only spaceflight. But he never seemed embarrassed by it. It seemed that from his vantage point in orbit, the moon’s topography was uninspiring, unlike the beauty of the house he had captured in “Earthrise.”

“I use the unpoetic description ‘dirty beach,'” he said of the moon’s gritty surface, adding, “you can imagine how much hell poets give me.” »

Orlando Mayorquin contributed to reports and Susan C. Beachy contributed to the research.

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