Name Charles Bassett
Other occupation Test pilot
Space agency NASA
|Selection 1963 NASA Group 3|
Spouse Jean Bassett (m. ?–1966)
|Born December 30, 1931
Dayton, Ohio, U.S. (1931-12-30) |
Other names Charles Arthur Bassett II
Alma mater Ohio State University Texas Tech, B.S. 1960 University of Southern California
Died February 28, 1966, St. Louis, Missouri, United States
Education Ohio State University, Texas Tech University, U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School, University of Southern California
Rank Captain, United States Air Force
Charles Arthur "Charlie" Bassett II (December 30, 1931 – February 28, 1966), (Capt, USAF), was an American electrical engineer and United States Air Force test pilot. 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.
Early life and education
Born in Dayton, Ohio, Bassett was active in the Boy Scouts of America, where he achieved its second highest rank, Life Scout. After graduating from Berea High School in Berea in 1950, he attended Ohio State University in Columbus from 1950 to 1952, and 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 USC in Los Angeles.
Midway through college in 1952, Bassett entered the U.S. Air Force as an Aviation Cadet, with training at Stallings Air Force Base, North Carolina, Bryan Air Force Base, Texas, and Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, completing advanced work in April 1954.
He went to Korea with the 8th Fighter Bomber Group and flew a F-86 Sabres. 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." Bassett was promoted to First Lieutenant in May 1955. He returned for pilot duties at Suffolk County Air Force Base, New York, serving until April 1958 when he took the Electrical Engineering course at the U.S. Air Force Institute of Technology at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio.
In November 1960, Bassett went to Maxwell Air Force Base, 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. 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-flying time, including over 2,900 hours in a jet aircraft.
Bassett was one of the third group of astronauts named by NASA in October 1963. In addition to participating in the overall astronaut training program, he had specific responsibilities pertaining to training and simulators. On November 8, 1965, he was selected as pilot of the Gemini 9 mission with Elliot See as Command Pilot.
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.
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. 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. Both men were buried in Arlington National Cemetery.
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.
Bassett was survived by his wife and two children.
Bassett was a member of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Phi Kappa Tau, Eta Kappa Nu, Tau Beta Pi, and the Daedalians.
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.
His name also appears on the Fallen Astronaut memorial plaque at Hadley Rille on the Moon, placed by the Apollo 15 mission in 1971. Texas Tech University dedicated an Electrical Engineering Research Laboratory building in Bassett's honor in November 1996. In attendance that day, in addition to university administrators and NASA officials, was fellow Texas Tech graduate and future NASA astronaut Rick Husband, who would himself die in the February 2003 Space Shuttle Columbia accident.