Space Science Day Lecture Series



Astronaut Ellison S. Onizuka had many dreams – one of which was to help inspire the youth of America to strive for and achieve their career goals. The lecture series was developed in his memory to realize his dream by creating a forum for young people to gather information and receive guidance in the various options available in science related careersAstronaut Ellison S. Onizuka.



In the early years the Ellison S. Onizuka Board meetings were held in a classroom of the Nishi Hongwangi Buddhist Temple. At these meetings, the Board discussed ways to help perpetuate the  legacy of Astronaut Onizuka. During his astronaut career, Astronaut Onizuka was known to have spent much of his time encouraging young students to focus on their studies through which they would ultimately be able to achieve their career goals. With that in mind and after several meetings, the board determined that an educational forum where the students are exposed to the many aspects of science through a lecture series would be a means to carry on Astronaut Onizuka’s legacy. This was the evolution of The Space Science Day Conference and The Astronaut Ellison S. Onizuka Memorial Lecture Series.


The first Space Science Day conference was held at the Nishi Hongwanji Buddhist Temple on February 7, 1987 with approximately 400 students in attendance. Astronauts Loren Shriver, Jim Buckli and Gary Payton who had flown with Astronaut Onizuka on his first flight were the guest speakers. Following the lecture program a first year memorial service was also conducted at the temple. In the evening, a celebrative feast ( Hawaiian Luau ) was attended by approximately 1,000 guests. Many of the food for the luau was brought in from Hawaii. A Hawaiian Choir was also invited to perform at the event where they sang many of Astronaut Onizuka’s favorite Hawaiian melodies. Lorna Onizuka, Ellison Onizuka’s widow and her family, daughters, Janelle and Darien were in attendance. Ellison’s mother Mitsue, brother Claude, sisters Shirley Matsuoka and Norma Sakamoto, and their families from Kona, Hawaii were also in attendance. This  fund raising event was made possible through the effort of Board members Al Pelayo and Stan Yoshino.


With the exception of the first conference held at the Buddhist Temple and another at the University of California in Los Angeles (UCLA) under the sponsorship of the Greater Los Angeles Science Teachers, subsequent conferences were held at the University of Southern California (USC) in Los Angeles. Many interesting science lectures and workshops tailored toward junior. high and high school students resulted in an attendance of approximately 900 students and teachers. One of the main attraction of the conference was the participation of the IMAX Theater in Exposition Park which was adjacent to the USC campus. The showing in the theater was science related and consistent with the theme of the conference. Board member Dr. Takashi Makinodan  and Dean Bob Douglas of USC were instrumental in the conference being held at the USC campus. Ms. Joanne Ishimine, newscaster for ABC TV Los Angeles ( Channel 7 ), served as the mistress of ceremony for many of the conferences. She was also involved in the planning of the first Space Science Day event.


The Greater Los Angeles Science Teachers Association (GLASTA) sponsored a lecture program at the UCLA and invited the members of the Ellison S. Onizuka Memorial Board. Astronauts in attendance were Colonel Loren Shriver and Colonel Jim Buchli. This conference was not part of the Space Science Day lecture series sponsored by the Onizuka Memorial Board.


The subsequent lecture series was held at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, California. Dr. Takashi Makinodan, Board Member, was instrumental in making the arrangements with Ms. Sheryl Lucarelli  and Ms. Charlene Frontiera of USC to have the lecture series held at USC.


Since 1999, the Space Science Day conferences has been held at El Camino College in Torrance, California in the South Bay Area of Los Angeles County. Dr. Nadine Hata, Vice President, El Camino Community College and Dr. Bruce Fitzpatrick, a faculty member and  also a member of the Ellison S. Onizuka Memorial Board, were instrumental in the move of the conference to the El Camino campus as well as the planning of the various programs. More science related lectures and workshops were added to accommodate increased student participation. The program, geared toward the middle school students, has an average attendance of1000 students and teachers each year.



Major Sponsors

From the early inception of the Space Science Day program, American Honda Motor Company, Inc. has provided financial support and manpower resources. Mr. Willie Tokishi, Vice President of Community Relations was instrumental in American Honda Motor’s participation in the program. Mr. Matt Matsuoka, Vice President of Community Relations, American Honda Motor Inc., served as president of the Board from 1986 to 1999.


Mr. Steve Morikawa, assistant vice president of corporate community relations, American Honda Motor Co. Inc., continues to support the program with financial aid, manpower support and providing necessary resources at American Honda Motor Co. Inc.  to insure the success of the annual Space Science Day event. Mr. Morikawa is also a member of the Onizuka Memorial Board.


USC has made their facilities and professors available in support of the Space Science day events from 1988 to 1998.


El Camino College in Torrance, California has supported the program from 1999 to the present. They have made their facilities and faculty available to support the program in addition to allocating funding resources toward the program. Several of the faculty members are also active members of the Onizuka Memorial Board.




The Space Science Day conferences were supported by several institutions, companies and individuals


–  National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) – provided astronauts

–  National Space Development Agency of Japan  (NASDA),– provided astronauts

–  Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency of Japan (JAXA)– provided astronauts

–  American Honda Motor Company, Inc. – provided funding, and made available company resources:  Print Shop – printed conference booklets and Community Action Team – provided volunteers to help with the conference

–  University of Southern California – provided facilities, lecturers, volunteers, and   pre-conference dinner

–  El Camino Community College – provided facilities, lecturers, volunteers, and pre-conference dinner

–  Kauai Kookie Kompany – cookies to complement the lunch menu

–  Manabi Farms, Oxnard, California ( Manabi and Sumi Hirasaki ) – provided  specially picked strawberries and raspberries

–  Atebara Chips, Hilo, Hawaii ( Nimr Y. Tamimi ) – provided potatoe and taro chips to complement the lunch menu

–  Kona Coast Macadamia Nuts and Candy ( Robert Kamigaki ) – provided macadamia nuts to complement the lunch menu.

–  Dr. Thomas M. Fallo, Superintentent/President El Camino College

–  Dr. Nadine Hata, Vice President, El Camino College

–  Willie Tokishi,Vice President, Community Relations, American Honda Motor Company Inc.

–  Stephan Morikawa, Assistant Vice President, Corporate Community Relations, American Honda Motor Company Inc.

–  Lorna Onizuka, Ellison Onizuka’s widow

–  Claude Onizuka, Ellison Onizuka’s brother

–  Carl’s Jr.

–  Pepsi Cola Company


Government Agencies

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration ( NASA ) and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) ( formerly the National Space Development Agency (NASDA) of Japan ) has provided astronauts to be the keynote speaker at the Space Science Day events. Many of the invited astronauts have experienced flights in space or were in training for a future flight at the time of the conference and have since completed their flights. Several of the astronauts have flown with Astronaut Onizuka, were in astronaut training together or knew him personally. Their presence at the conferences is an inspiration to the student attendees.


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