Onizuka Memorial to Be Rededicated Saturday

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Join community members and friends as they gather to remember Astronaut Ellison S. Onizuka and his fellow crew members of the space shuttle Challenger on Saturday, Aug. 13, at 10 a.m.

A monument, which was recently renovated, was built in 1990 and placed in Little Tokyo’s Weller Court as part of the Ellison Onizuka Memorial. Onizuka realized his dream of becoming an astronaut and was the first Asian American in space when he flew on the shuttle Discovery in 1985.

Born in Kealakekua, Kona, Hawaii, Onizuka excelled in school, graduating from Konawaena High School with honors. After graduating from high school, he attended the University of Colorado, earning a bachelor’s degree in aeronautical engineering and a master’s degree in aerospace engineering. He then joined the U.S. Air Force and attended the Air Force Test Pilot School at Edwards Air Force Base in California. Against stiff competition (8,000 applicants), Onizuka was selected as one of 35 astronauts for NASA’s Space Shuttle Program. He was the first Japanese American selected to participate in America’s space program.

An extension of the Ellison Onizuka Memorial in Hawaii, the Los Angeles monument serves as a reminder of Onizuka’s dream and legacy. It was designed by Isao Hirai, owner of the Scale Model Company in Hawthorne, who took on the tremendous project of refurbishing the Challenger replica. The shuttle, along with the boosters and the external tank, were examined for structural integrity, reassembled, and painted to the exact paint scheme of the Challenger at the time of its last flight in 1986.

The ceremony will take place on Astronaut Ellison S. Onizuka Street in front of the shuttle monument. For more information, contact Committee Chair Tim Stowe at [email protected] or visit http://onizukamemorial.org/.

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