Elliot McKay See Jr. (July 23, 1927 – February 28, 1966) was an American engineer, naval aviator, test pilot, and NASA astronaut, selected in the second group of astronauts.[1] He died in 1966 in a NASA trainer jet crash in St. Louis en route to training for what would have been his first space flight, Gemini 9.


Early life and educationEdit

See was born in Dallas, Texas on July 23, 1927, and attended Highland Park High School, from which he graduated in 1945. See was active in the Boy Scouts of America and earned the rank of Eagle Scout.[2] After initially attending The University of Texas where he was a member of Phi Kappa Psi Fraternity, he then attended the United States Merchant Marine Academy, graduating with a Bachelor of Science degree in 1949. He later obtained a Master of Science degree in Engineering from UCLA, in 1962.

He was married to Marilyn Denahy See, and had three children: Sally, born in 1956, Carolyn, born in 1957, and David, born in 1962.[3]

Navy service, General Electric and NASA careerEdit

Astronaut Group 2 - S62-6759

Elliot See (standing row, left) with fellow The New Nine astronauts

Overwhelmed isn't the right word. I was amazed and certainly pleased. It's a very great honor.

— See's feelings about being selected as an astronaut[4]

He worked for General Electric before and after serving as a Naval Aviator from 1953 to 1956. He served as project pilot of J79-8 engine development program in connection with the F4H aircraft. See conducted powerplant flight tests on the J-47, J-73, J-79, CJ805, and CJ805 aft-fan engines. This work involved flying in F-86, XF4D, F-104, F11F-1F, RB-66, F4H, and T-38 aircraft.

He has logged more than 3,900 hours flying time, including more than 3,300 hours in jet aircraft.

In 1962 See was selected to be one of the new nine NASA astronauts. He served as backup pilot for Gemini 5 and was a CAPCOM in Houston during the Gemini 7/6A rendezvous mission in December 1965. He was in line to fly as Prime Crew Pilot for Gemini 8, but was promoted to be the Command Pilot of Gemini 9.[1][5] According to chief astronaut Deke Slayton's autobiography, Slayton did not assign See to Gemini 8 because he did not consider him physically capable of performing an extravehicular activity. Slayton further stated that he assigned See to Gemini 9 because he had become "sentimental" about getting him a flight.[6]


Main article: 1966 NASA T-38 crash
The Original Gemini 9 Prime Crew - GPN-2000-001352

Elliot See and Charles Bassett

See and fellow astronaut Charles Bassett, assigned as Pilot for Gemini 9, were killed before their mission flew on February 28, 1966, when their T-38 trainer jet crashed into McDonnell Aircraft Building 101, known as the McDonnell Space Center, located 1,000 feet (300 m) from Lambert Field airport in St. Louis, Missouri. Building 101 was where the Gemini spacecraft was built, and they were going there to train for two weeks in a simulator, along with their backup crew. Ironically, See and Bassett died within 500 feet (150 m) of their spacecraft; both were buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

A NASA investigative panel later concluded that pilot error caused by poor visibility due to bad weather had been the principal cause of the accident. The panel concluded that See was flying too low to the ground during his second approach, probably as a result of the poor visibility. Slayton would later express doubts about See's flying ability, claiming that See flew too slowly and "wasn't aggressive enough."[6]

The mission was launched three months later, in early June, as Gemini 9A. The shuffling of the Gemini prime and backup crew assignments that occurred after the deaths of See and Bassett impacted the crew selections for some of the early Apollo manned missions.[6]


See was a member of the Society of Experimental Test Pilots, and an associate fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics.


Elliot McKay See

See in a Gemini pressure suit

  • In the 1998 HBO miniseries From the Earth to the Moon, See was played by Steve Zahn.
  • A family-approved account of See's life and career appears in the 2003 book Fallen Astronauts by space historians Colin Burgess and Kate Doolan.[8]
  • A memorial was established for See by the Alumni Association of the UCLA Engineering Executive Program from which See earned his Master of Engineering degree in 1962. A trophy was designed that incorporated a Gemini capsule and was labeled the Elliot M. See Memorial Award for Outstanding Engineering Paper. The trophy was presented annually for many years to a senior engineering student submitting an essay judged to best describe an engineering contribution to society.

See alsoEdit



External linksEdit

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