Ellison Onizuka

American astronaut from Kealakekua, Kona, Hawaii, first Asian American to reach space, later died in the Space Shuttle Challenger accident

Ellison Shoji Onizuka (エリソン・ショージ・オニヅカ, 鬼塚 承次, Onizuka Shōji, June 24, 1946 – January 28, 1986) was an American NASA astronaut and engineer. He flew into space with the Space Shuttle Discovery on STS-51-C in 1985. He later died in the disaster of Space Shuttle Challenger. He was serving as Mission Specialist for Challenger's STS-51-L. He was the first Asian American and the first person of Japanese ancestry to reach space.

Ellison Onizuka
Onizuka, c. 1980s
Born(1946-06-24)June 24, 1946
DiedJanuary 28, 1986(1986-01-28) (aged 39)
OccupationResearch engineer
AwardsCongressional Space Medal of Honor
Space career
NASA astronaut
Rank Colonel, USAF
Time in space
3d 01h 33m
Selection1978 NASA Group 8
MissionsSTS-51-C, STS-51-L
Mission insignia

Onizuka was born in Kealakekua, Hawaii. He got two degrees at the University of Colorado at Boulder (B.S. and M.S.) in 1969. He was a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Air Force. He was awarded the rank of colonel after his death. He married Lorna Leiko Yoshida in 1969. The couple had two daughters.

On January 28, 1986, Space Shuttle Challenger broke apart 73 seconds after launch. Onizuka and all six others aboard died.[1]


  1. "Biographical Data" (PDF). NASA. January 2007. Retrieved March 23, 2019.

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