Charles Bassett

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

(1931-12-30)December 30, 1931
Dayton, Ohio, U.S.
DiedFebruary 28, 1966(1966-02-28) (aged 34)
Resting placeArlington National Cemetery[1]
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

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 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[edit]

Born in Dayton, Ohio, on December 30, 1931,[2] 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.[2]

Military service[edit]

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.

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.[3] 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.[3] There, he flew trainer aircraft, such as the T-6, T-28, and T-33, and completed advanced work in the F-86 in 1954.[4]

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."[5] Bassett was promoted to first lieutenant in May 1955.[5] 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 of flying time, including over 2,900 hours in a jet aircraft.[2]

NASA career[edit]

I'd always wanted to fly and wanted to fly jets, then I wanted to be a test pilot. So I was just lucky enough to follow it right along into the space program.

Bassett, about his test pilot goals and becoming an astronaut.[6]

Bassett was one of the third group of astronauts named by NASA in October 1963.[7] 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.[2]

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.[8]


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.[9][10] 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.[11] Both men were buried in Arlington National Cemetery.[1]

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.[12]

Bassett was survived by his wife Jean and their two children, Karen and Peter.[2][9][13]


Bassett was a member of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Phi Kappa Tau, Eta Kappa Nu, Tau Beta Pi, and the Daedalians.[2]


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.[14]

His name also appears on the Fallen Astronaut memorial plaque at Hadley Rille on the Moon, placed by the Apollo 15 mission in 1971.[15] 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.[16]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Charles Arthur Bassett II". Arlington National Cemetery. Retrieved October 9, 2016.
  2. ^ a b c d e f "Charles A. Bassett, II (Captain, USAF)". NASA Johnson Space Center. March 1966. Retrieved October 9, 2016.
  3. ^ a b Burgess 2003, p. 49.
  4. ^ Burgess 2003, pp. 49–50.
  5. ^ a b "Distinguished Engineer Citations". Texas Tech University. Retrieved December 13, 2016.
  6. ^ Charlie Bassett's quotation Archived February 2, 2015, at the Wayback Machine
  7. ^ Burgess 2003, p. 58.
  8. ^ Slayton, Donald K. "Deke"; Cassutt, Michael (1994). Deke! U.S. Manned Space: From Mercury to the Shuttle (1st ed.). New York: Forge (St. Martin's Press). p. 167. ISBN 0-312-85503-6. LCCN 94-2463. OCLC 29845663.
  9. ^ a b "2 astronauts killed as plane hits plant". Eugene Register-Guard. (Oregon). February 28, 1966.
  10. ^ "2 space men perish in jet". Chicago Tribune. March 1, 1966. p. 1.
  11. ^ McMichael, W. Pate (May 2006). "Losing The Moon". St. Louis Magazine. St. Louis, MO. Retrieved June 10, 2012.
  12. ^ "Accident Board Reports Findings in See-Bassett Crash" (PDF). Space News Roundup. NASA. June 10, 1966. Retrieved December 12, 2016.
  13. ^ "Charles A. Bassett II". Astronaut Memorial Foundation. Archived from the original on 2017-07-06. Retrieved May 16, 2018.
  14. ^ "The Astronauts Memorial Foundation Space Mirror Memorial". The Astronauts Memorial Foundation. Retrieved October 9, 2016.
  15. ^ Eveleth, Rose (January 7, 2013). "There Is a Sculpture on the Moon Commemorating Fallen Astronauts". Smithsonian. Retrieved October 9, 2016.
  16. ^ Slyker, Karin (July 7, 2011). "Texas Tech Makes Its Mark on NASA". Texas Tech University. Retrieved December 13, 2016.


  • Codex Regius (2014). The Forgotten Astronauts:A rarely told Chapter of American Spaceflight History. ISBN 1-4996-1012-2.
  • Burgess, Colin; Doolan, Kate (October 1, 2003). Fallen Astronauts: Heroes Who Died Reaching for the Moon. Bibson Books. ISBN 978-0803262126.

External links[edit]