William G. Bastedo; Dedicated Life to Space Exploration
Sunday, August 6, 2006
William G. Bastedo, 76, whose family landed on American soil before the Revolutionary War and who spent his life launching the nation into space, died of complications from intestinal surgery Aug. 1 at the University of Virginia Hospital in Charlottesville.
First in the U.S. Air Force and later as a NASA and defense contractor employee, Col. Bastedo worked on a wide range of space issues, from ballistic missiles to Skylab, satellites and the Hubble Space Telescope.
It was this last project that occupied him for almost a decade. He helped develop, deploy and service the Hubble telescope as deputy project manager for BDM International in Washington. The Hubble became the butt of popular jokes in the early 1990s when it was discovered that its main mirror was flawed, but the distortion was fixed, and the Hubble has become one of the most important telescopes in the history of astronomy.
Col. Bastedo had experience with spacecraft that did not perform perfectly. In 1979, he chaired an interagency task force that coped with the uncontrolled reentry of the Skylab spacecraft. No one was absolutely certain where the debris would land, which made the wait particularly tense. Skylab eventually came to Earth in western Australia.
Described by his wife of 48 years as a humble and happy man, Col. Bastedo was born in Asbury Park, N.J., and graduated from the University of Maryland in 1952. He immediately entered the Air Force.
Unable to become a pilot because of poor vision, he sought out cutting-edge areas for his career. He worked on ballistic missiles and test-range assignments until 1965, then became a capsule communicator at NASA's Johnson Space Center during the Gemini and Apollo missions, overseeing ground flight controllers and tracking station operations.
He later supervised operations of nine ships that gathered data for the Air Force and NASA missile and space programs and then, based at the State Department, helped negotiate international space agreements with 11 European countries. He retired from the Air Force in 1975 and became a NASA employee.
By 1980, he was manager of NASA's spaceflight tracking and data systems, which kept tabs on unmanned near-Earth scientific satellites and space shuttles. He became director of the office that manages all of NASA's tracking networks.
Retiring for the second time in 1987, he was hired by BDM International, which worked with NASA on the Hubble. After its launch and repair, Col. Bastedo retired for the last time in 1996 and moved from Alexandria to Charlottesville.
Among his military awards were the Legion of Merit and Joint Services Commendation Medal. He also received two Exceptional Service Medals from NASA.
In retirement, he enjoyed golf, bocce, fine arts, bridge and watching University of Virginia sports. He volunteered at the University of Virginia Hospital and with Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic.
Survivors include his wife, Mary L. Bastedo of Charlottesville; four children, Mary Ann Reid of Midlothian, Va., William Bastedo Jr. of Houston, Robert Bastedo of New York and Margaret Clippard of Burke; and six grandchildren.