Astronaut Ellison Onizuka — A Visionary Hero
“Your vision is not limited by what your eyes can see, but by what your mind can imagine. Many things that you take for granted were considered unrealistic dreams by previous generations. If you accept these past accomplishments as commonplace then think of the new horizons that you can explore. From your vantage point, your education and imagination will carry you to places which we won’t believe possible. Make your life count – and the world will be a better place because you tried.”
—Ellison S. Onizuka, June 24, 1946 – January 28, 1986
Hawai‘i-born astronaut Ellison Onizuka was a fearless explorer with limitless vision, an adventurer who inspired multiple generations with his vivid imagination and pioneer spirit. As the first Asian astronaut in space, Ellison viewed the continual exploration of imagination as a necessity for progress and taught others that life was to be lived with aggressive determination. He believed in the value of education and the application of ingenuity to improve the world we live in. Most importantly, he implored people to go
confidently toward their dreams and to persevere in times of hardship or doubt.
From his childhood in Kealakekua, Kona, to his role as part of the Challenger Space Shuttle crew, he touched the lives of those around him with his optimism and courage.
Ellison attended the University of Colorado, earning a Bachelor of Science degree in aeronautical engineering in 1968 and a Master of Science degree in aerospace engineering in 1969. He joined the United States Air Force in January of 1970, and in 1974 attended the Air Force Test Pilot School at Edwards Air Force Base in California.
Out of 8,000 applicants, Ellison was chosen to become part of a team of 35 astronauts to participate in the NASA Space Shuttle Program. After rigorous training, he entered space for the first time on January 24, 1985, as a mission specialist for the space shuttle Discovery, America’s first classified manned military space flight. Shortly after his first deep space experience, Ellison was honored as the first Asian astronaut in space.
In 1985, Ellison was selected for his second space flight, joining a seven-member crew aboard the Challenger Flight 51-L. Handpicked to represent America’s spirit of discovery and freedom, the crewmembers reflected a variety of backgrounds and expertise. On January 28, 1986, the Challenger lifted from the earth. At 11:39 a.m., just 73 seconds after liftoff, the Challenger Space Shuttle exploded with the world watching.
Challenger Center Hawai‘i continues to honor the memory of fallen hero Ellison Onizuka and his six companions through simulated space missions that encourage creativity, celebrate curiosity, and engage critical thinking.