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Apollo 8 astronaut, William Anders, who took famous picture of Earth, killed in small plane crash

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The victim in a fatal plane crash Friday in Washington state has been identified as Retired Maj. Gen. William Anders, the former Apollo 8 astronaut who took the iconic “Earthrise” photo, his son Greg Anders confirmed to The Associated Press.

Just before noon, rescue crews responded to reports of a plane crash in Washington state between Orcas and Jones Island, the U.S. Coast Guard Pacific Northwest confirmed. 

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

SMALL PLANE CRASHES IN CENTRAL VIRGINIA, KILLING 2

Close-up of American astronaut William Anders, of NASA's Apollo 8 mission, during a panel interview held at the Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago, Illinois, April 5, 2018.

Close-up of American astronaut William Anders, of NASA’s Apollo 8 mission, during a panel interview held at the Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago, Illinois, April 5, 2018. (J.B. Spector/Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago/Getty Images)

During a telecast on Christmas Eve 1968, the Apollo 8 crew read verses from the first chapter of Genesis and wished viewers, “Good night, good luck, a Merry Christmas and God bless all of you – all of you on the good Earth.” 

Anders took the “Earthrise” photo while in lunar orbit on December 24, 1968, according to NASA. 

William, along with Apollo 8 crew mates, is one of the first three people to have traveled to the Moon. Bill also has a crater on the Moon named in his honor named “The Anders Crater,” according to the Anders Foundation website. 

WASHINGTON PILOT WHO HAD GONE MISSING FOUND DEAD IN PLANE THAT CRASHED IN FORESTED AREA

FILE - This Dec. 24, 1968, file photo made available by NASA shows the Earth behind the surface of the moon during the Apollo 8 mission. Retired Maj. Gen. William Anders, the former Apollo 8 astronaut who took the iconic "Earthrise" photo showing the planet as a shadowed blue marble from space in 1968, was killed Friday, June 7, 2024, when the plane he was piloting alone plummeted into the waters off the San Juan Islands in Washington state. He was 90.

FILE – This Dec. 24, 1968, file photo made available by NASA shows the Earth behind the surface of the moon during the Apollo 8 mission. Retired Maj. Gen. William Anders, the former Apollo 8 astronaut who took the iconic “Earthrise” photo showing the planet as a shadowed blue marble from space in 1968, was killed Friday, June 7, 2024, when the plane he was piloting alone plummeted into the waters off the San Juan Islands in Washington state. He was 90. (William Anders/NASA via AP, File)

The FAA confirmed to Fox News Digital that the plane that crashed was a vintage Air Force T-34 Mentor and said the only person on board was the pilot. 

SMALL PLANE CARRYING TWO PEOPLE CRASHES IN NASHVILLE SUBURB: POLICE

The San Juan County Sheriff’s Office told Fox News Digital they are still doing a search and rescue and assisting the Coast Guard. 

Air Station Bellingham and Station Port Angeles are also on-scene and helping with search and rescue. 

UNC HEALTH PILOT, PHYSICIAN HOSPITALIZED AFTER SMALL PLANE CRASH

Portrait of the crew of NASA's Apollo 8, Florida, December 1968, including command module pilot James Lovell, left, lunar module pilot William Anders, and Commander Frank Borman.

Portrait of the crew of NASA’s Apollo 8, Florida, December 1968, including command module pilot James Lovell, left, lunar module pilot William Anders, and Commander Frank Borman. (Photo by NASA/Interim Archives/Getty Images)

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

This is a developing story. 

The Associated Press contributed to this story. 

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