“Your vision is not limited by what your eye can see, but by what your mind can imagine. Make your life count – and the world will be a better place because you tried.”
– Ellison S. Onizuka
ASTRONAUT ELLISON S. ONIZUKA
June 24, 1946 – January 28, 1986
Imagine a young boy on a small island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, laying on his back, staring at a star-speckled sky, and dreaming. Dreaming of someday going higher than the birds, high enough to reach and touch those distant stars above.
Following this dream, Astronaut Ellison S. Onizuka became the first Asian astronaut to fly in space and blazed a path that began on that small island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean to the heavens above the earth.
Ellison was born on June 24, 1946, in Kealakekua, Kona, Hawaii, a simple rural community. From these humble beginnings, Ellison formulated his dream of venturing into space.
Ellison excelled in school, graduating from Konawaena High School with honors in 1964. He was also active in the 4-H Club, student council, National Honors Society, yearbook, varsity basketball and baseball, and Boy Scouts
After graduating from high school, 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 1970, and attended the Air Force Test Pilot School at Edwards Air Force Base in California in August 1974.
Against stiff competition (8,000 applicants), Ellison was selected in 1978 as one of 35 astronauts for NASA’s Space Shuttle Program. He was the first Japanese American selected to participate in America’s space program.
Ellison’s dreams came to fruition after years of training and hard work. On January 24, 1985, Ellison first entered space as a mission specialist aboard the space shuttle Discovery – America’s first classified manned military space flight. The mission was a success, and Ellison was honored as the first Asian astronaut to venture into space.
Soon after, Ellison was selected for Challenger Flight 51-L along with six other crew members. The crew of this mission was carefully chosen to reflect the spirit of America. All walks of life, backgrounds and regions were represented on his shuttle flight, including elementary school teacher Christa McAuliffe, who would be the first civilian in space. On January 28, 1986, the space shuttle Challenger lifted from the earth. At 11:39 a.m., 73 seconds after liftoff, the orbiter tragically exploded, ending seven lives of ambitions, dreams and courage.