SPOTLIGHT BY Karleen C. Chinen
Beloved Hawai‘i astronaut Ellison Onizuka’s 71st birthday was remembered and celebrated on June 24 with the opening of “The Ellison Onizuka Remembrance” at the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawai‘i. The collection is now part of the center’s “Okage Sama De: I am what I am because of you” permanent exhibit.
The remembrance includes a collection of photographs and artifacts celebrating the life of Hawai‘i’s first astronaut — and America’s first astronaut of Japanese and Asian ancestry. Among the artifacts are a nine-foot model of the Challenger space shuttle, a spacesuit worn by Apollo 13 astronaut Fred Haise, a piece of moon rock and a bust of Onizuka, who inspired countless children to dream big and work hard to realize those dreams.
Onizuka and his six Challenger crewmates were killed instantly when their space shuttle exploded 73 seconds after lifting off from Cape Canaveral, Fla., on Jan. 28, 1986.