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William Alison "Bill" Anders

Birthplace: British Hong Kong
Immediate Family:

Son of Lt. Arthur F. Anders (USN) and Muriel Adams

Managed by: Private User
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Immediate Family

About William Anders

William Alison "Bill" Anders (born October 17, 1933) is a former United States Air Force officer, 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).


Anders was born to U.S. Navy Lt. Arthur F. Anders and Muriel Adams Anders in Hong Kong, 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 Grossmont High School in La Mesa, California. He was born and raised Catholic. Anders married Valerie Hoard in 1955. The couple have four sons and two daughters. They live in Washington state.

Academic background

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 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.

USAF experience

After graduating from the Naval Academy, Anders took his commission in the U.S. Air Force and served as a fighter pilot in all-weather interceptor squadrons of the Air Defense Command. 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.

NASA experience

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; the lunar module pilot for the Apollo 8 mission, the first manned lunar orbit mission, in December 1968. 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.

He has logged more than 6,000 hours of flight time.

His famous quote "We came all this way to explore the Moon, and the most important thing is that we discovered the Earth" and the first pictures taken of the earth from the Moon, inspired environmentalists everywhere.

Post-NASA experience

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.

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.

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. 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.

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.

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.

In 1990, Anders became vice chairman of General Dynamics, and on January 1, 1991, its chairman and CEO. He retired in 1993 but remained chairman until May 1994.

He was also 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.

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.

Anders was portrayed by Robert John Burke in the 1998 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. 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.

On June 27, 2009, Anders was a guest of the first World Moon Bounce Day. 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 popular culture

A recording of Bill Anders, 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").

Awards and decorations

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William Anders's Timeline

October 17, 1933
British Hong Kong