Pioneering Astronaut Remembered for Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month

PEACHTREE CITY, USA – For Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, Aventure remembers the accomplishments and ultimate sacrifice of Ellison Shoji Onizuka. 

Onizuka was an American astronaut, engineer, and USAF test pilot from Kealakekua, Hawaii. He became the first Asian American and person of Japanese origin in space. 

He was born on June 24, 1946, in the Kona district of Hawaiʻi island, where he was raised and graduated high school. In 1969, he received degrees in Aerospace Engineering at the University of Colorado, where he participated in U.S. Air Force ROTC. 

The following year, Onizuka entered active duty with the U.S. Air Force, serving as a flight test engineer and test pilot. Selected for the astronaut program in 1978, his first space mission took place January 24, 1985, on the Space Shuttle Discovery

One year and four days later, Onizuka, along with six other crew members, perished when the Space Shuttle Challenger was tragically destroyed 73 seconds after launch. Onizuka was buried at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu, Hawaii. He was promoted posthumously to the rank of colonel. 

Onizuka’s legacy has been remembered in many ways. Hawaii dedicated a space center and airport in his honor, while streets in California and Texas are named after him. Farther from Earth, an asteroid and Moon crater bear his name.

Space shuttle in flight over the Earth with bright sun in the distance