St. Louis, MO Astronauts Killed In Crash, Feb 1966

Elliot See Jr. Astronaut.jpg Charles A. Bassett II Astronaut.jpg



St. Louis, Mo. (AP) -- U.S. astronauts ELLIOT SEE, JR., and CHARLES A. BASSETT II, the primary crew for the planned Gemini 9 space flight, were killed Monday when their jet plane crashed into the building housing their space capsule.
The backup crew for the flight scheduled this summer, Air Force Lt. Col. Thomas P. Stafford and Navy Lt. Cmdr. Eugene A Cernan, were named later Monday to replace SEE and BASSETT.
Stafford and Cernan, who were following SEE, 38, and BASSETT, 34, to the McDonnell Aircraft Corp. plant here for space training, landed their T38 single engine supersonic trainer safely minutes after SEE and BASSETT crashed into the McDonnell complex where the Gemini capsules and Phantom jet fighters are built.
The accident will have no impact on the Gemini 8 flight and "hopefully it will have no effect on the Gemini 9 flight," said Paul Haney, the Manned Space Craft Center's public relations director who arrived here Monday afternoon from Houston.
Haney said it was not known if the plane, also a T38, developed engine trouble before the crash. He said it would be six to eight weeks before the cause of the crash would be learned.
Haney said there apparently was no attempt by SEE of BASSETT to eject themselves from the plane.
He said the crash occurred after SEE advised Stafford, that he was going to try an instrument landing. Haney said that was the last Stafford heard from SEE before swerving away to permit SEE'S landing.
Neither Stafford nor Cernan saw the crash, Haney said.
The bodies were thrown from the wreckage after the plane, also a T38 trainer, glanced from the roof of McDonnell's space center and then exploded into flames on a nearby construction crew parking lot.
The next orbital flight, Gemini 8, is scheduled for March 15. Taking the two-day flight will be astronaut Neil A. Armstrong, a civilian and the command pilot, and Air Force Maj. David R. Scott, the co-pilot.
The Gemini 9 space capsule was still in the building about 500 feet from the impact point. It was being readied for shipment to Cape Kennedy, Fla. Also in the building is the production line for jet fighters used in Viet Nam.
Twelve persons working in a McDonnell engineering office were injured, none hurt seriously. Some were knocked from their chairs when the plane hit the roof directly above them. One man suffered a broken ankle.

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