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  Space Cover 359: Remembering Charlie Bassett

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Author Topic:   Space Cover 359: Remembering Charlie Bassett
stevedd841
Member

Posts: 239
From: millersville, maryland, usa
Registered: Jul 2004

posted 03-13-2016 07:49 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for stevedd841   Click Here to Email stevedd841     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Space Cover of the Week, Week 359 (March 13, 2016)

The signed astronaut Charlie Bassett cover above is mailed to space cover collector Barbara Baker October 17, 1963, as he traveled from Tokyo, Japan, back to Houston, Texas to a NASA press conference after being selected as an astronaut for NASA's new Gemini Program. Barbara found astronaut Bassett agreeable to autographing a cover to send back to her, but more importantly, also has asked him to take a cover with him to a Gemini Program training event, sign it, and send it back to her, and he does. On the included manila card inside the cover, he remarks, "I am very pleased that I might be a part of the investigation."
In astronaut training now, and quickly ramping up from his previous duty as a USAF test pilot, astronaut Charlie Bassett completes a second space cover sent to him by Barbara Baker. The cover is carried by Bassett for the first Gemini Reentry Simulation Test, February 13, 1964, at the Manned Spacecraft Center, Houston, Texas. Astronaut Bassett signs the cover Charles A. Bassett II, Captain, USAF and mails it back to Barbara Baker. It was a prized early Gemini Program cover too for Barbara.

Space Cover #359: Remembering Astronaut Charlie Bassett, USAF

As shown in a recent Space Cover of the Week postings, covers for the prospective Gemini 9 crew members Charlie Bassett and Elliot See, these space covers are extremely difficult to find. The two astronauts died in a fatal crash of their T-38 jet in poor visibility and IFR flight conditions near Lambert Field, Missouri while enroute to see their Gemini 9 spacecraft being completed at the McDonnell Aircraft facility.

As recounted by Space Unit member Dennis Dillman in his earlier Space Cover of the Week posting:

...Charles Bassett and Elliott See approached Lambert Field in St. Louis, MO. They broke out of the clouds, realized they were too low, hit their afterburners, and turned directly into McDonnell Aircraft Building 101, where their Gemini 9 capsule was being finished out. Both were killed on impact.
It was a freak accident taking two of NASA's best test pilots' lives way before their time. The two covers originated by Space Unit member Barbara Baker on the off chance that Charlie Bassett would respond to them for her space cover collection provide a rare insight into the life of test pilot Charlie Bassett who had not been selected as an astronaut for astronaut group two that had included Neil Armstrong, Frank Borman, Pete Conrad, Jim Lovell, Jim McDivitt, Elliot See, Tom Stafford, Ed White, and John Young.

But his selection in NASA's astronaut group three had also included a class of remarkable test pilots with Buzz Aldrin, Bill Anders, Alan Bean, Gene Cernan, Dave Scott, Roger Chaffee, and Mike Collins in this group. All of these astronauts were experienced test pilots, the best of the best.

What is gleaned in the two early Charlie Bassett space covers sent to Barbara Baker is a remarkable insight into the wonder and excitement acknowledged by Bassett in his being accepted as a new astronaut in NASA's space program. On the manila card included in the top cover above, he writes to Barbara, "...I hope you will retain your interest and imagination. There is a great deal to learn about ourself and our World." I am very pleased that I might be a part of the investigation."

Manila card signed by Charlie Bassett included in top cover above while he is enroute from Tokyo, Japan, to Houston, Texas, to attend NASA press conference announcing astronaut selectees for NASA Astronaut Group Three, October 17, 1963.

Steve Durst, SU 4379

Ken Havekotte
Member

Posts: 2228
From: Merritt Island, Florida, Brevard
Registered: Mar 2001

posted 03-13-2016 12:50 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Ken Havekotte   Click Here to Email Ken Havekotte     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Wow, Steve! What a fantastic pair of unique Charlie Bassett covers from Barb Baker. I've never seen any of these beforehand concerning Bassett, and I love the remarks that Bassett contributed for the special pair of covers.

Do you know any sort of catalog or inventory listing of all the Baker-issued flown and carried space covers since the 1950's?

I've seen a few of them beforehand and consider many of them as historic space cover issues, but not only in the astrophilately arena, but also as aerospace educational "documents" of sorts.

stevedd841
Member

Posts: 239
From: millersville, maryland, usa
Registered: Jul 2004

posted 03-14-2016 03:26 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for stevedd841   Click Here to Email stevedd841     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Many thanks for your comments, Ken, they are very much appreciated. I don't know of any inventory of the astrophilatelic covers or aeronautical covers that Barb made except for the rare covers that are pictured in the "Ellington-Zwisler Rocket Mail Catalog," volume 2, published by the American Air Mail Society, 1973.

I really like Barb's distinctive looking homemade covers and pick them up whenever I can find them for a reasonable price. This does not happen often. Like you, I also consider both her astrophilatelic covers and aeronautical covers to be historic covers in the true sense.

And I am usually surprised to read the additional comments sent back to her as a bonus for cover collectors to read and enjoy. Thank you for your additional comments to this thread in my telling this story.

Bob M
Member

Posts: 1570
From: Atlanta-area, GA USA
Registered: Aug 2000

posted 03-15-2016 10:29 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Bob M   Click Here to Email Bob M     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Steve, fascinating covers and info from the legendary early space cover collector, Barbara Baker. But, sadly, probably relatively few present day collectors know of her and her historic flown covers.

Like many collectors, I only associated Miss Baker with her famous X-15 flown covers, but here in our SCOTW's we've been privileged to see other early flown covers of hers, from Charles Bassett here and earlier from Fred Haise.

It would be good to list here all the known flown covers that Miss Baker acquired and have been dispersed - and wouldn't she be proud to know that her beloved covers are being shown on the World Wide Web for everyone to see?!

Ken Havekotte
Member

Posts: 2228
From: Merritt Island, Florida, Brevard
Registered: Mar 2001

posted 03-15-2016 05:09 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Ken Havekotte   Click Here to Email Ken Havekotte     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Appreciate the good comments above, Steve.

Besides Baker's well-known X-15 flown rocketplane covers, I've only seen a few of her flown/carried covers of different space topics, but never saw any of the rocket mail catalogs with her covers in there. Must get those issues one of these days.

When corresponding with Barb throughout the 1970/80s, she was a mentor to me in helping with my own beginning flown/carried cover collections.

She first contacted me in April 1975 asking about my "carried" ASTP Saturn 1B rollout covers. That started our correspondence together, and in trying to locate her file folder going back all those years, she did include some copies for me depicting various flown/carried cover events from her remarkable collections.

Of course, she had Dave Scott sign and document a flown cover to the moon onboard Apollo 15 that she said was a highlight of her collections, and rightly so!

Others that I recall seeing from this pioneer space cover collector was another carried on a lunar module simulator here at KSC by Ed Mitchell, which I believe, might had been stolen while it had been placed in a national astrophilately exhibition (does that ring a bell to anyone)?

Barb's special homemade cachet covers were in fact highlight features of published articles in the Astrophile, the Explorer, and in a few other publications that I got copies of here somewhere.

All times are CT (US)

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