Astronaut Bill Anders dies in plane crash off Jones Island

Famed astronaut and long-time Orcas resident William Anders died in a plane crash on June 7 in the San Juans. He was 90.

The San Juan County Sheriff’s Office and personnel from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and U.S. Coast Guard responded to a report of a downed aircraft off the coast of Jones Island in San Juan Channel. The first report of the incident came into the dispatch around 11:40 a.m., stating that an older model plane was flying from north to south then went into the water near the north end of Jones Island and sunk. There was no one else on board.

Anders was a United States Air Force major general, electrical engineer, nuclear engineer, NASA astronaut and businessman well-known on Orcas for his philanthropy and community endeavors. He and his wife, Valerie, established the William A. Anders Foundation and the Heritage Flight Museum. He lived in Anacortes at the time of his death.

Anders was among the first people to orbit the moon on the Apollo 8 mission. Along with fellow astronauts Frank Borman and Jim Lovell, he circled the moon 10 times and broadcast live images and commentary back to Earth, including the Christmas Eve Genesis reading. During one of the mission’s lunar orbits, he took the famous photo “Earthrise” on Dec. 24, 1968. It has been called the most influential environmental photo in history.

“We came all this way to explore the Moon, and the most important thing is that we discovered the Earth,” said Anders.

Anders was inducted into the International Space Hall of Fame, the International Air & Space Hall of Fame, the United States Astronaut Hall of Fame and the National Aviation Hall of Fame.

He is survived by his wife, Valerie, and six children.

“Earthrise” by William Anders courtesy of NASA.

“Earthrise” by William Anders courtesy of NASA.

courtesy of the Heritage Flight Museum and NASA
Portrait of astronaut William Anders.

courtesy of the Heritage Flight Museum and NASA Portrait of astronaut William Anders.