1966: Two Gemini astronauts are killed in a jet crash in St. Louis | History

ST. LOUIS • Astronauts Elliott See Jr. and Charles Bassett II were the main crew for Gemini IX, a mission scheduled for May 1966. They should meet with a satellite and give Bassett a spacewalk, all part of the learning curve in the race for the moon.

See and Bassett flew from Houston to St. Louis on February 28, 1966 to do simulator training at McDonnell Aircraft Corp., maker of the Mercury and Gemini spacecraft. Gemini IX was stored in Building 101 known as Gemini Space Operations.

Fog and rain covered Lambert Field just before 9 a.m. See, piloting his T-38 military training jet, approached too high and began a tight swing around the airport. He radioed fellow astronauts Thomas Stafford and Eugene Cernan, who were in another NASA T-38 behind them, that he was preparing for a visual landing on the airport’s diagonal runway closer to the McDonnell complex.

February 28, 1966: Two astronauts are killed in a plane crash Monday Feb. 28, 1966 – Page 1 · Mailed to St. Louis (St. Louis, St. Louis, Missouri, United States) · Mailed to St. Louis

Kenneth Stovall, a Union Electric lineman, watched See’s jet from a substation east of the airport. Stovall said his descent looked like a steep dive bench.

“I heard a roar and saw a ball of fire,” said Stovall.

The right wing of the T-38 cut off the roof of building 101. The hull jumped over the roof twice, fell into a construction yard and exploded. Both astronauts were killed instantly. Twelve employees in the building were injured by ceiling debris.

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