Roamy here, continuing my series of posts on remembering fallen astronauts. I mentioned in the Day of Remembrance post that it’s not just for the crews of Apollo 1, Challenger STS-51L, and Columbia STS-107, but also the astronauts who died while training for flight or on official NASA business. I recommend The Astronaut/Cosmonaut Memorial Web Site for more information about Theodore Freeman, Charles Bassett, Elliot See, Clifton Williams, Robert Lawrence, Michael Adams, and Manley “Sonny” Carter, Jr. The website includes info on other astronauts who died in non-work-related plane crashes, e.g. Stanley David Griggs, who died while piloting a WW2-era trainer in an air show near Earle, Arkansas.
Bassett and See had been picked to crew Gemini 9. They were flying to St. Louis in February 1966 to train for two weeks at McDonnell Aircraft in a building 1,000 feet from the runway at Lambert Field. Snow and poor visibility led to the two crashing into the very building that held their Gemini capsule.
Freeman and Williams died in separate T-38 accidents. Lawrence died in an F-104 crash. Mike Adams earned his astronaut badge by flying above 50 miles altitude on his final and fatal X-15 flight.
I met Sonny Carter in 1990. Each Shuttle crew usually travels to each NASA center to meet the workers, sign autographs, talk about their mission, and remind us that there are human beings riding on the vehicles we’re working on. Sonny stood out for me not just because he was selected for the International Microgravity Laboratory mission, and I had worked on one of the experiments, but also because he was from Macon, Georgia, and he spoke with an accent that sounded like home. He was killed in the crash of Atlantic Southeast Airline Flight 2311 in Brunswick, GA, which also killed former senator John Tower of Texas. The Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory at Johnson Space Center was renamed the Sonny Carter Training Facility in his honor.
May they all rest in peace.