Charles Arthur "Art" Bassett, II (December 30, 1931 – February 28, 1966) was a United States Air Force officer and a NASA astronaut who died during a training flight.
Bassett was born in Dayton
, on December 30
, and died February 28
, in St. Louis
He 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, Ohio
in 1950, he attended Ohio State University
from 1950 to 1952, and Texas Technological College, now Texas Tech University
, from 1958 to 1960. He received a Bachelor of Science Degree in Electrical Engineering with honors from Texas Tech; he had done graduate work at University of Southern California
Member of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Phi Kappa Tau
, Eta Kappa Nu
, Tau Beta Pi
and the Daedalians.
Bassett was a captain in the United States Air Force
. He graduated from the Aerospace Research Pilot School and the Air Force Experimental Pilot School. He served as an experimental test pilot and engineering test pilot in the Fighter Projects Office at Edwards Air Force Base
, California. He logged over 3,600 hours-flying time, including over 2,900 hours in a jet aircraft. He was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart
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
, he was selected as pilot of the upcoming Gemini 9
Bassett and pilot Elliott See died on February 28, 1966, in the crash of a T-38 trainer jet. The jet crashed into McDonnell Aircraft Building 101 known as the McDonnell Space Center located 1000 feet from Lambert Field airport in St. Louis, Missouri not long before Gemini 9 flew. Building 101 was were the Gemini Space Capsule was built and the astronauts were to train there for two weeks in the simulator. They died within 500 feet of where it was being built. 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 approach, probably as a result of the poor visibility.
Bassett was survived by his wife and two children. He is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.
Charles Bassett is honored at the Kennedy Space Center
Visitor's Center Space Mirror Memorial
, alongside 24 other NASA astronauts who died in pursuit of space exploration.
Texas Tech University dedicated an Electrical Engineering research laboratory building in Bassett's honor November 1996. In attendance that day, in addition to University administrators and NASA officials, was fellow Texas Tech graduate, NASA Astronaut, and future STS-107 Columbia
commander Rick Husband
A family-approved account of Bassett's life appears in the book "Fallen Astronauts" by Colin Burgess.