The first man to walk around the moon died in a plane crash

American astronaut William Anders, who orbited the moon on the Apollo 8 spacecraft and took one of the most famous photographs in space, has died at the age of 90 while piloting a light-engine aircraft.

According to official data, his plane crashed into the water north of Seattle, Washington state, the BBC reported.

Anders' son Greg confirmed that his father was piloting the small plane and that his body was found on Friday afternoon.

"Our family is devastated. He was a great pilot. We will miss him," the family said in a statement.

In 1968, Anders was the lunar module pilot of the Apollo 8 mission, the first manned spacecraft to reach the moon. He is the author of the iconic photograph "Sunrise of the Earth" - one of the most famous images of our planet from space.

The photo was taken on Christmas Eve. Sealed on it is the Earth, rising above the horizon of the lifeless lunar surface.

Anders later called this photo his most significant contribution to the space program.

"We came all this way to explore the moon, and the most important thing we discovered was Earth," he said.

Many believe that this image motivated the global environmental movement and laid the foundation for the global Earth Day campaign.

The US National Transportation Safety Board reported that the Beechcraft A45, piloted by 90-year-old William Anders, crashed around 11:40 a.m. local time (9:40 p.m. Bulgarian time). He fell into the water about 25 meters off the coast of Jones Island.

Eyewitness Philip Persson told local news station King-TV that the plane performed something similar to a dead stop.

"I couldn't believe my eyes. It was like something out of a special effects movie. Huge explosion, flames and everything,” he added.

Video footage believed to have captured the crash shows the pilot trying to avoid the collision at the last second, before the plane crashes into the water, bursts into flames and disintegrates. I BGNES