Space Shuttle Challenger Monument (Los Angeles, California)
In 1989, Mr. Hiromichi Kume one of the leaders of the Japan Business Association and president of Anshindo Inc. located on Astronaut Ellison S. Onizuka Street in Little Tokyo, Los Angeles, asked the Board to support an effort to erect a monument on Weller Court in memory of Astronaut Onizuka. The goal was to raise funds in order to erect a scaled replica of the Space Shuttle Challenger.
The Astronaut Ellison S. Oniuzka Commemorative Committee ( a subcommittee of the Ellison S. Onizuka Memorial Board) was formed to spearhead the project. The committee consisted of: Darlene Kuba ,Office of Councilman Gilbert Lindsay (Council District No. 9), Chairperson, Hiromichi Kume, Treasurer, Tom Nagano, Toshio Asakura, Tetsuo Watanabe, Tammy Henken, Hiroshi Togami, Sue Iwasaki, Hiroshi Kotoh, Executive Director, Joyce Kimura, Ryo Munekata (Advisor, Astronaut Ellison S. Onizuka Memorial Board), Matt Matsuoka, Advisor (Astronaut Ellison S. Onizuka Memorial Board) and Frank Omatsu (Advisor, Astronaut Ellison S. Onizuka Memorial Board).
The Commemorative Committee was instrumental in raising the funds to design and construct the monument. The majority of the funds were raised by the members of the Japanese Business Association of Los Angeles. Ms. Darlene Kuba, an assistant to City Councilman Gilbert Lindsey, worked with the City of Los Angeles, to obtain the necessary permit and satisfy other city requirements in order to receive approval to build the monument.
The 1/10th scale model of the Space Shuttle Challenger stands 27 feet in height, mounted on a pedestal with a 7 feet base. Each side of the base consists of black granite with a bronze commemorative plaque. The front plaque is dedicated to Astronaut Ellison S. Onizuka and the side plaques are dedicated to the Challenger crew and the United States Space Program, respectfully. The back plaque consist of the names of the donors whose contributions have made the memorial possible.
The monument was designed, fabricated and assembled by the Scale Model Company 4613 West Rosecrans Avenue, Hawthorne, California, 90250; 310-679-1435. Mr. Isao Hirai, the owner of the company, was the principal designer of the monument.
The Astronaut Ellison S. Onizuka Memorial monument was dedicated on October 19,1990. The dedication service was conducted by ministers from the Nishi Hongwanji Buddhist Temple in Los Angeles, California. In attendance were: Lorna Onizuka, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) astronauts Colonel Loren Shriver, Colonel Jim Buchli and Colonel Gary Payton, and National Space Development Agency of Japan (NASDA) astronauts Dr. Mamoru Mohri, Dr. Chiaki Mukai and Dr. Takao Doi. The dedication was followed with a dinner at the Ohtani Hotel in Los Angeles, California with approximately 300 people in attendance.
The Monument Today
More than two decades later the monument was in need of a major refurbishment. In March of 2011 the Space Shuttle Challenger portion of the monument was removed and transported to the facilities of the Scale Model Company in Hawthorne, California. Mr. Isao Hirai, the original designer, fabricator and installer of the monument, and his staff were responsible for this major project.
The shuttle, both boosters and the external tank were examined for structural integrity, reassembled and painted to the exact paint scheme of the Challenger vehicle at the time of its last flight. The information on the paint scheme was provided by Rockwell International, Space Division of Downey California who built the shuttle for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
2021, Little Tokyo, DTLA, California