Open main menu

Charles Arthur "Charlie" Bassett II, Major, USAF (December 30, 1931 – February 28, 1966) was an American electrical engineer and United States Air Force test pilot. He went to Ohio State University for two years and later graduated from Texas Tech University. He joined the air force as a pilot and graduated from both the Aerospace Research Pilot School and the Air Force's Experimental Test Pilot School. Bassett was married and had two children. He was selected as a NASA astronaut in 1963 and assigned to Gemini 9, but died in an airplane crash during training for his first spaceflight. He is memorialized on the Space Mirror Memorial, The Astronaut Monument, and the Fallen Astronaut memorial plaque, placed on the Moon during the Apollo 15 mission.

Charles Bassett
Charles Bassett S64-31443.jpg
Bassett in 1964
Born
Charles Arthur Bassett II

(1931-12-30)December 30, 1931
DiedFebruary 28, 1966(1966-02-28) (aged 34)
Resting placeArlington National Cemetery
NationalityAmerican
Alma materOhio State University
Texas Tech, B.S. 1960
University of Southern California
OccupationTest pilot
Space career
NASA astronaut
RankUS-O4 insignia.svg Major, USAF
SelectionNASA Astronaut Group 3
Signature
Charles Bassett signature.svg

Early life and educationEdit

Charles Arthur Bassett II was born in Dayton, Ohio, on December 30, 1931, to Charles "Pete" Bassett and Belle née James.[1] Bassett was active in the Boy Scouts of America, where he achieved its second-highest rank, Life Scout.[2] During high school, Bassett was a model plane aficionado. He belonged to a club that built gasoline powered models and flew them in the school gym. Bassett's interest in model airplanes translated to real aircraft; he made his first solo flight at age 16. He worked odd jobs at the airport to earn money for flying lessons and earned his pilot license at age seventeen.[3]

After graduating from Berea High School in Berea in 1950, he attended Ohio State University in Columbus from 1950 to 1952. Midway through college in 1952, Bassett enrolled in Air Force ROTC but later entered the U.S. Air Force as an aviation cadet in October of that year.[1] He later attended Texas Technological College, now Texas Tech University, from 1958 to 1960. He received a bachelor's degree with honors in electrical engineering from Texas Tech and did graduate work at University of Southern California in Los Angeles.[4]

Military serviceEdit

 
ARPS Class III graduates Front row: Edward Givens, Tommie Benefield, Charlie Bassett, Greg Neubeck and Mike Collins. Back row: Al Atwell, Neil Garland, Jim Roman, Al Uhalt and Joe Engle.

He started his career with training at Stallings Air Base, North Carolina and Bryan Air Force Base, Texas. Bassett graduated from Bryan in December 1953 and was commissioned in the Air Force. He arrived for additional training in Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, as a second lieutenant.[1] There, he flew trainer aircraft, such as the T-6, T-28, and T-33, and flew the jet fighter F-86 Sabre in 1954.[5]

He went to Korea with the 8th Fighter Bomber Group and flew a F-86 Sabre. Bassett was too late to fly any combat missions, and said, "If you don’t have any challenge, you never know how good you are."[6] Bassett was promoted to first lieutenant in May 1955.[6] He returned from Korea in 1955 and was assigned to Suffolk County Air Force Base in New York flying aircraft such as the F-86-D, F-102, and C-119.[7]

In November 1960, Bassett went to Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama to attend Squadron Officer School. He also graduated from the Aerospace Research Pilot School and the Air Force's Experimental Test Pilot School (Class 62A) and was promoted to captain.[8] Bassett was an experimental test pilot and engineering test pilot in the Fighter Projects Office at Edwards Air Force Base, California, and logged over 3,600 hours of flying time, including over 2,900 hours in a jet aircraft.[4]

NASA careerEdit

Bassett was one of the third group of astronauts named by NASA in October 1963.[9] In addition to participating in the overall astronaut training program, he had specific responsibilities related to training and simulators. On November 8, 1965, he was selected as pilot of the Gemini 9 mission with Elliot See as command pilot.[4]

According to chief astronaut Deke Slayton's autobiography, he chose Bassett for Gemini 9 because he was "strong enough to carry" both himself and See. Slayton had also assigned Bassett as command module pilot for the second backup Apollo crew, alongside Frank Borman and William Anders.[10]

Personal lifeEdit

On June 22, 1955, Bassett married Jeannie Martin.[11] They had two children: Karen (December 22, 1957) and Peter (April 6, 1961).[4][12][13]

DeathEdit

 
Elliot See and Charles Bassett

Bassett and See were killed on February 28, 1966, when their T-38 trainer jet, piloted by See, crashed into McDonnell Aircraft Building 101, known as the McDonnell Space Center, located 1,000 feet (300 m) from Lambert Field airport in St. Louis, Missouri.[12][14] Building 101 was where the Gemini spacecraft was built, and they were going there to train for two weeks in a simulator. They died within 500 feet (150 m) of their spacecraft. Bassett was decapitated, and his head was found in the building's rafters.[15] Both men were buried in Arlington National Cemetery. During the service, astronauts Jim McDivitt and Jim Lovell and civilian pilot Jere Cobb flew the missing man formation.[16]

A NASA investigative panel later concluded that pilot error, caused by poor visibility due to bad weather, was the principal cause of the accident. The panel concluded that See was flying too low to the ground during his second approach, probably as a result of the poor visibility.[17]

MemorialsEdit

 
Bassett's name on the Space Mirror Memorial

Bassett is honored at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Center's Space Mirror Memorial, alongside 24 other NASA astronauts who died in the pursuit of space exploration.[18]

His name also appears on the Fallen Astronaut memorial plaque at Hadley Rille on the Moon, placed by the Apollo 15 mission in 1971.[19] Texas Tech University dedicated an Electrical Engineering Research Laboratory building in Bassett's honor in November 1996.[20]

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ a b c Burgess & Doolan 2003, p. 49.
  2. ^ "Astronauts and the BSA" (PDF). Boy Scouts of America. 2006. Archived from the original (PDF) on November 13, 2018. Retrieved March 24, 2019.
  3. ^ Burgess & Doolan 2003, pp. 50–51.
  4. ^ a b c d "Charles A. Bassett, II Biography". NASA Johnson Space Center. March 1966. Archived from the original on July 19, 2016. Retrieved October 9, 2016.
  5. ^ Burgess & Doolan 2003, pp. 49–50.
  6. ^ a b "Distinguished Engineer Citations". Texas Tech University. Retrieved December 13, 2016.
  7. ^ Burgess & Doolan 2003, p. 50.
  8. ^ Burgess & Doolan 2003, p. 56.
  9. ^ Burgess & Doolan 2003, p. 58.
  10. ^ Slayton & Cassutt 1994, p. 167.
  11. ^ Burgess & Doolan 2003, pp. 52–55.
  12. ^ a b "2 astronauts killed as plane hits plant". Eugene Register-Guard. Eugene, Oregon. Associated Press. February 28, 1966 – via Google News.
  13. ^ Burgess & Doolan 2003, pp. 55–56.
  14. ^ "2 space men perish in jet". Chicago Tribune. March 1, 1966. p. 1 – via Newspapers.com.
  15. ^ McMichael, W. Pate (May 2006). "Losing The Moon". St. Louis Magazine. St. Louis, MO. Retrieved June 10, 2012.
  16. ^ "Astronauts are Bid Farewell in Texas". The Record. Hackensack, New Jersey. UPI. March 3, 1966. p. 37 – via Newspapers.com.
  17. ^ "Accident Board Reports Findings in See-Bassett Crash" (PDF). Space News Roundup. NASA. June 10, 1966. Retrieved December 12, 2016.
  18. ^ Cole, Jeff; Lunner, Chet (January 28, 1988). "For Memorial Design Winner, Sky's the Limit". Florida Today. Cocoa, Florida. p. 2 – via Newspapers.com.
  19. ^ Eveleth, Rose (January 7, 2013). "There Is a Sculpture on the Moon Commemorating Fallen Astronauts". Smithsonian.com. Retrieved October 9, 2016.
  20. ^ Slyker, Karin (July 7, 2011). "Texas Tech Makes Its Mark on NASA". Texas Tech University. Retrieved December 13, 2016.

BibliographyEdit

External linksEdit