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William Alison "Bill" Anders (born October 17, 1933), (Maj Gen, USAFR, Ret.), is a former United States Air Force officer, nuclear engineer, NASA astronaut, and businessman. He is, along with Apollo 8 crewmates Frank Borman and Jim Lovell, one of the first three persons to have left Earth orbit and traveled to the Moon (of only 24 people to date).

Early lifeEdit

Anders was born on October 17, 1933, in Hong Kong, to U.S. Navy Lt. Arthur F. Anders (d. 2000)[1] and Muriel Adams Anders (d. 1990), and was active in the Boy Scouts of America where he achieved its second-highest rank, Life Scout. Anders attended St. Martin's Academy and graduated from Grossmont High School in La Mesa, California, in 1951.[2]

He received a Bachelor of Science degree from the United States Naval Academy in 1955, and a Master of Science degree in Nuclear Engineering from the U.S. Air Force Institute of Technology at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, in 1962. Anders completed the Harvard Business School's Advanced Management Program in 1979.

He was born and raised Catholic.

Personal lifeEdit

Anders married Valerie Hoard in 1955. The couple have four sons and two daughters: Alan (born February 1957), Glen (born July 1958), Gregory (born December 1962), Eric (born July 1964), Gayle (born December 1960), and Diana (born August 1972). They live in Washington state.[3]

Air Force service and NASA careerEdit

Following graduation from the U.S. Naval Academy, Anders took his commission in the U.S. Air Force and after receiving his pilot wings in 1956, he served as a fighter pilot in all-weather interceptor squadrons of the Air Defense Command in California and in Iceland, where he participated in early intercepts of Soviet heavy bombers who were then challenging America’s air defense borders.[4] He later was responsible for technical management of nuclear power reactor shielding and radiation effects programs while at the Air Force Weapons Laboratory in New Mexico.

He has logged more than 8,000 hours of flight time.[5]

Spaceflight experienceEdit

Main article: Apollo 8
Apollo8 Prime Crew

Anders, left, with fellow Apollo 8 crewmates Jim Lovell and Frank Borman

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

William A. Anders.[6][7]

"Earthrise", taken by Anders on 24 December 1968

In 1963, Anders was selected by NASA in the third group of astronauts. He became involved in the NASA work in the areas of dosimetry, radiation effects, and environmental controls. He was the backup pilot for the Gemini 11 mission. Then in December 1968, he flew as Lunar Module Pilot for the Apollo 8 mission, the first mission where humans traveled beyond Low Earth orbit (also the first to reach the Moon, and first to orbit the Moon). Anders took a celebrated photograph of Earthrise. He served as backup Command Module pilot for the Apollo 11 mission, before accepting an assignment with the National Aeronautics and Space Council, while still remaining an astronaut.[citation needed]

Post-NASA careerEdit

From 1969 to 1973, Anders served as Executive Secretary for the National Aeronautics and Space Council, which was responsible to the President, Vice President and Cabinet-level members of the Council for developing policy options concerning research, development, operations and planning of aeronautical and space systems. He was also a consultant to the Times-Mirror Organisation in Los Angeles, during which he visited one of T-M's several publishing companies, Jeppesen & Co., in Frankfurt, Germany.[citation needed]

On August 6, 1973, Anders was appointed to the five-member Atomic Energy Commission, where he was lead commissioner for nuclear and non-nuclear power R&D. He was also named as U.S. Chairman of the joint U.S./USSR technology exchange program for fission and fusion power.[citation needed]

Following the reorganization of national nuclear regulatory and developmental activities on January 19, 1975, Anders was named by President Ford to become the first chairman of the newly established Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which is responsible for nuclear safety and environmental compatibility.[citation needed] At the completion of his term as NRC chairman, Anders was appointed Ambassador to Norway and held that position until 1977, when he left the federal government after 26 years.[citation needed]

Anders briefly served as a fellow of the American Enterprise Institute, then joined General Electric in September 1977. As Vice President and General Manager of GE's Nuclear Products Division in San Jose, California, he was responsible for the manufacture of nuclear fuel, reactor internal equipment, and control and instrumentation for GE boiling-water reactors at facilities located in San Jose and Wilmington, North Carolina. He also oversaw GE's partnership with Chicago Bridge and Iron for making large steel pressure vessels in Memphis, Tennessee. In August 1979, Anders was sent to attend Harvard Business School's Advanced Management Program. On the first day of 1980, Anders was appointed General Manager of the GE Aircraft Equipment Division. Headquartered in Utica, New York, the division included more than 8,500 employees in five locations in the northeastern U.S. Its products included aircraft flight and weapon control systems, cockpit instruments, aircraft electrical generating systems, airborne radars and data processing systems, electronic countermeasures, space command systems, and aircraft/surface multi-barrel armament systems.[citation needed]

In 1984, he left GE to join Textron as Executive Vice President for aerospace, and two years later became Senior Executive Vice President for operations.[citation needed]

In 1990, Anders became Vice Chairman of General Dynamics, and on January 1, 1991, its chairman and Chief Executive Officer (CEO). He retired in 1993, but remained Chairman until May 1994.[citation needed]

Anders was a consultant to the U.S. Office of Science and Technology Policy, and was a member of the Defense Science Board and the NASA Advisory Council. He is a retired Major General in the USAF Reserve.

Bergen Air Show 075

Bill Anders taxiing a P-51 Mustang at Bergen Air Show in 2005

He established the William A. Anders Foundation, a philanthropic organization dedicated to supporting educational and environmental issues. The foundation was a primary sponsor of the American Experience episode, "Race to the Moon." The foundation also founded the Heritage Flight Museum in 1996 at Bellingham International Airport in Bellingham, Washington; Anders serves as its President and until 2008 was an active participant in its air shows.

The Anders crater on the Moon is named in his honor.[citation needed]

On November 13, 2008, Anders and fellow Apollo 8 crew members Frank Borman and Jim Lovell appeared on the NASA TV channel to discuss the Apollo 8 mission.[citation needed]

On June 27, 2009, Anders was a guest of the first World Moon Bounce Day.[citation needed] His interview was bounced off the Moon by radio signals and back to Earth as part of the activities. The first World Moon Bounce Day was timed to precede the 40th anniversary of Apollo 11.

In 2011, Anders spoke at the first Starmus Festival in the Canary Islands, delivering a lecture on the early American space program. His talk was published in the book Starmus: 50 Years of Man in Space.[8]


Anders is a member of Tau Beta Pi National Engineering Honor Society, American Nuclear Society, American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, and Society of Experimental Test Pilots.[citation needed]

Awards and honorsEdit

Bill Anders shakes hands with Buzz and wishes him well as he and the others enter the elevator in the MSOB on launch day

Anders shakes hands with Buzz Aldrin and wishes him well on his Apollo 11 journey to the Moon

In popular cultureEdit

Geology training in Iceland 1967

Anders with Icelandic geologist Sigurður Þórarinsson and Dr. Ted Foss during geology training in Iceland in 1967

Anders was portrayed by Robert John Burke in the 1998 HBO miniseries From the Earth to the Moon.

A family-approved account of Anders' life and career appears in the 2007 book In the Shadow of the Moon.

A recording of Bill Anders,[9] made during the Apollo 8 lunar orbit, on December 24, 1968, reading from the Bible (Genesis, Chapter 1) is included on the first track ("In The Beginning") of the Mike Oldfield album The Songs of Distant Earth, with verses repeated again in the second track ("Let There Be Light").

Anders also appeared in the 2005 documentary “Race to the Moon,” which was shown as part of the PBS American Experience series. The film, renamed in 2013 as “Earthrise: The First Lunar Voyage,” centered on the events that led up to NASA’s Apollo 8 mission.

Anders is interviewed in a chapter of the book "No More Worlds to Conquer" by Chris Wright. The chapter is roughly evenly split between his life in Apollo and his later corporate life. Anders allowed his "Earthrise" image to be used as the book's front cover.

See alsoEdit


External linksEdit

Preceded by
Thomas R. Byrne
United States Ambassador to Norway
Succeeded by
Louis A. Lerner
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