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Published: Thursday, June 27, 2019 @ 6:00 AM
— Charles Bassett II was supposed to go beyond the clouds, but fate had other plans.
The Dayton native and former U.S. Air Force pilot never got out of orbit.
“This is a man who died in the pursuit of space,” Bryan Stewart a community activist, said. “The final frontier.”
Bassett, a married 34-year-old father of two, died with fellow NASA astronaut Elliot See Jr. on Feb. 28, 1966 when the T-38 jet they were aboard struck the building housing their space capsule in St. Louis, Mo.
The pair — the second and third NASA Astronaut Corps fatalities behind Theodore C. Freeman — had been scheduled to pilot Gemini IX in 1966 and could have gone to the moon.
Stewart partnered with The Mural Machine — a duo behind more than 100 large, public art works in the Dayton area since 2015 — on a mural that pays tribute to Bassett and Ohio’s space heritage.
Bassett’s name is memorialized on the Space Mirror Memorial in Florida and on the Fallen Astronaut memorial plaque the Apollo 15 crew placed on the moon in 1971.
“A Daytonian’s name is on the moon,” Stewart said. “We just wanted a bigger more pronounced (memorial in Dayton).”
Nearly two years after the project was publicly announced, a space mural designed by Mural Machine owner Tiffany Clark has been installed on the side of the All Tune and Lube building at 400 E. Third Street.
The business near Warped Wing Brewery is owned by Brad Jessmer.
The design includes a rendering of Bassett in his space suit and stats about Ohio’s space history.
The Buckeye State is home to 25 astronauts including Bassett; Nancy J. Currie of Troy and Gregory H. Johnson of Fairborn.
The space mural project faced challenges, which resulted in delays.
“The previous two (locations) fell through right before beginning for separate location or ‘approval’ reasons,” Clark told us.
Community support was there.
About $1,500 for the space mural project was raised from the public. The National Aviation Heritage Area contributed another $1,500 for the project, Stewart and Clark said.
Mackensie Wittmer, executive director of the National Aviation Heritage Area which includes more than 15 aviation-related sites in the Dayton area, said she was proud to partner with Stewart and the Mural Machine.
“This project will celebrate Ohio’s space heritage and enrich our city,” Wittmer said in a statement provided by Stewart.