William A. Anders, Who Flew on First Manned Orbit of the Moon, Dies at 90

On Christmas Eve, during their 10 orbits of the moon, the three astronauts, whose movements were telecast to millions around the world, took photos of Earth as it rose over the lunar horizon, appearing as a blue marble amid the blackness of the heavens. But only Major Anders, who oversaw their spacecraft’s electronic 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…” It was an inspiration for the first Earth Day, in 1970, and it appeared on the cover of Life magazine’s 2003 book “100 Photographs That Changed the World.” Just moments before Major Anders began snapping away, the astronauts could be heard, as captured by the onboard recorder, expressing their awe over what they saw:

Anders: Oh my God! Look at that picture over there. Here’s the Earth coming up. Wow, that’s pretty.

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

Anders: [laughter] “You got a color film, Jim? Hand me that roll of color quick, would you…

Lovell: “Oh man, that’s great.”

Decades later, in a 2015 interview with Forbes magazine, Major Anders said of Earthrise, “The view points out the beauty of Earth, and its fragility. It helped kick start the environmental movement.”

But he said he was surprised by how much the public’s memory of the figures behind that photo had faded. “It’s curious to me that the press and people on the ground have kind of forgotten our history-making voyage, and what’s symbolic of the flight now is the ‘Earthrise’ picture,” he said. “Here we came all the way to the moon to discover Earth.”

In closing out their Christmas Eve telecast, the Apollo 8 astronauts read from the first passage in the Book of Genesis.

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