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(Tribune News Service) — Aerospace technology company Northrop Grumman has named its NG-16 Cygnus spacecraft in honor of Hawaii astronaut Ellison Onizuka, who was one of seven crew members killed in the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster on Jan, 28, 1986.

The spacecraft is used for NASA's cargo resupply missions, delivering over 8, 000 pounds of supplies, equipment and experiments to the International Space Station.

"For each Cygnus mission, we take the opportunity to celebrate the lives and accomplishments of individuals who have had a significant impact on human spaceflight, " said Frank DeMauro, vice president and general manager, Tactical Space Systems, at Northrop Grumman. "For NG-16, we're honored to name our Cygnus spacecraft after Ellison Onizuka, who made history as the first Asian American astronaut, who lost his life in support of the advancement of the human exploration of space, and whose inspiring words continue to motivate us to chase new discoveries each day."

Onizuka was born in Kealakekua, Kona, in 1946, and received bachelor's and master's degrees in aerospace engineering from the University of Colorado, where he was a member of the U.S. Air Force ROTC.

Onizuka went on to work as a flight test engineer and test pilot at McClellan Air Force Base in California before training at the Flight Test Center at Edwards Air Force Base. He then led engineering support for the training resources division.

In January 1978, Onizuka was selected for NASA's astronaut program. In January 1985, Onizuka flew as a mission specialist aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery for STS 51-C, the first space shuttle mission for the Department of Defense. The crew completed 48 orbits of Earth, and at the mission's completion, he had logged 74 hours in space.

Onizuka undertook his second space shuttle mission aboard the Challenger, which exploded 73 seconds after launch.

"He made the ultimate sacrifice in service to the space program, " Northrop Grumman said in a news release last week. "His legacy lives on in his fellow astronauts and all who he has inspired and taught to fly."

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Seven people aboard the Challenger were lost on the morning of January 28, 1986, when a booster engine failed, causing the shuttle to break apart just 73 seconds after launch. The crew: Front row from left, Mike Smith, Dick Scobee, Ron McNair. Back row from left, Ellison Onizuka, Christa McAuliffe, Greg Jarvis, Judith Resnik.
Seven people aboard the Challenger were lost on the morning of January 28, 1986, when a booster engine failed, causing the shuttle to break apart just 73 seconds after launch. The crew: Front row from left, Mike Smith, Dick Scobee, Ron McNair. Back row from left, Ellison Onizuka, Christa McAuliffe, Greg Jarvis, Judith Resnik. (Courtesy of NASA)

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