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Astronaut William Anders, one of the first people to orbit the moon, died in a plane crash

Astronaut William Anders, one of the first people to orbit the moon, died in a plane crash

(CNN) — William “Bill” Anders, a NASA astronaut who was part of the Apollo 8 crew in 1968 and was one of the first three people to orbit the moon, died in a plane crash in Washington state, according to his son, Gregory Anders. He was 90 years old.

“My father died in a plane crash in the San Juan Islands,” Anders told CNN on Friday evening.

The San Juan County Sheriff’s Office said in a news release that a plane crashed off the coast of Johns Island.

Astronaut William Anders.  (Credit: NASA)

Astronaut William Anders. (Credit: NASA)

The Sheriff’s Office said its dispatch center received an initial report at approximately 11:40 a.m. PT that “an old model aircraft was flying north to south and then fell into the water near the north end of Jones Island and sank.”

“The family is heartbroken and saddened by the loss of a great driver,” Anders’ son said.

The San Juan Islands are located about 90 miles (144 kilometers) north of Seattle.

The famous photo known as “Earthrise” was taken by William Anders while on the Apollo 8 mission.

This iconic photo taken by Bill Anders aboard Apollo 8 shows Earth looking out from behind the lunar surface as the first manned spacecraft orbited the Moon, with astronauts Anders, Frank Borman, and Jim Lovell aboard.  (William Anders/NASA)

This iconic photo taken by Bill Anders aboard Apollo 8 shows Earth looking out from behind the lunar surface as the first manned spacecraft orbited the Moon, with astronauts Anders, Frank Borman, and Jim Lovell aboard. (William Anders/NASA)

The U.S. Coast Guard later announced that a dive team had recovered the pilot’s body after an hours-long, multi-agency search that covered 215 nautical miles.

William Anders was born on October 17, 1933, in Hong Kong. He graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1955 and, after commissioning in the U.S. Air Force, earned his pilot wings the following year, according to the Naval Academy website.

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Anders served as a fighter pilot in the Air Defense Command’s all-weather interception squadrons in California and Iceland, according to NASA and the U.S. Naval Academy.

While at the Air Force Weapons Laboratory in New Mexico, Anders was responsible for managing nuclear reactor protection and radiation effects programs, his NASA biography states.

This text was originally published on June 7 and has been updated