by Ralph Nichols

When the United States eventually returns to space after the shuttle program is retired next year, “we can go back to the moon and on to other planets,” Apollo 8 astronaut William A. Anders said at the Museum of Flight in Tukwila recently.

Anders, a retired major general in the US Air Force Reserve, was keynote speaker at a private luncheon hosted by the museum and the Seattle Symphony honoring the Apollo missions. It was held on the 40th anniversary of the launch of Apollo 12 – the second mission to land men on the moon.

Astronaut William A. Anders was one of the first three persons to have left Earth orbit and travel to the Moon. Photo credit: NASA, 1967

In remarks given between symphonic works at the concert, Anders, the lunar module pilot on the Apollo 8 mission – the first manned lunar orbit mission, recalled that President Kennedy, determined “to demonstrate that America was not second rate … and would not lose the missile gap,” would land a man on the moon by the end of the 1960s.

“And that was done,” added Anders, whose reflection on the Apollo 8 mission, “We came all this way to explore the moon, and the most important thing is that we discovered the Earth,” has become a famous quote.

Even more famous are his pictures, the first taken of the earth from the moon, including “Earthrise,” which he took on Christmas Eve, 1968:

“The space program today,” he said at the Museum of Flight, “has had some spectacular flights … and spectacular successes with the space shuttle. But the shuttle will be grounded next year.”

Now NASA is working on new space vehicles, and with the vision of companies like Boeing and leaders like Bill Allen, the long-time CEO of the aerospace giant, the United States “will go back into space.”

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