Ellison Onizuka, the first Asian American astronaut, was recently honored with a NASA spacecraft named after him.
A fallen hero: Aerospace company Northrop Grumman named its NG-16 Cygnus spacecraft S.S. Ellison Onizuka after the astronaut died along with six other crew members in the tragic Space Shuttle Challenger mishap on Jan. 28, 1986, reported the Honolulu Star-Advertiser.
- NASA uses the robotic resupply spacecraft to deliver cargo, such as equipment and other supplies, to the International Space Station.
- According to a recent news release, the company said it is their tradition to name each Cygnus spacecraft after an “individual who has played a pivotal role in human spaceflight.”
- “He made the ultimate sacrifice in service to the space program,” it read. “His legacy lives on in his fellow astronauts and all who he has inspired and taught to fly.”
- Northrop Grumman Tactical Space Systems Vice President and General Manager Frank DeMauro said, Onizuka “lost his life in support of the advancement of the human exploration of space.”
- S.S. Ellison Onizuka is set to launch on Aug. 10 at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island for a 56-day mission at the ISS, according to NASA.
A trailblazer: Onizuka, who joined NASA’s astronaut program in 1978, completed a total of 74 hours in space aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery for STS 51-C, the Department of Defense’s first space shuttle mission.
- According to NASA, Colonel Onizuka served as a flight test engineer and test pilot for the U.S. Air Force before becoming an astronaut.
- Onizuka attended the U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School, where he worked with various aircrafts, including the F-84, F-100, F-105, F-111 and A-1.
- Onizuka died during his second space shuttle mission aboard the ill-fated Challenger, which exploded just 73 seconds after lift-off.
- The disaster prompted NASA to suspend all shuttle missions temporarily.
Remembering Onizuka: Numerous facilities have been dedicated to the late astronaut.
- The Ellison S. Onizuka Space Center at Kona International Airport in Hawaii’s Kona district, where he was born and raised, was dedicated to him.
- The former Onizuka Air Force Station in Sunnyvale, Calif., and Onizuka Village family housing on Hickam Air Force Base were also named in his honor.
Featured Image via NASA STI Program