Aerospace and defense technology company Northrop Grumman recently named its latest spacecraft after Ellison Onizuka, the first Asian American to fly to space.
Onizuka, a Hawaii native of Japanese descent, joined the Air Force as an engineer and test pilot before being selected by NASA to be an astronaut in 1978. He first traveled to space in 1985 onboard the Space Shuttle Discovery, remaining in space for nearly 74 hours, according to Northrop Grumman. However, he died in the 1986 Space Shuttle Challenger disaster at the age of 39 when the spaceplane exploded shortly after takeoff.
“He made the ultimate sacrifice in service to the space program,” Northrop Grumman said in a statement, “and his legacy lives on in his fellow astronauts and all who he has inspired and taught to fly.”
The company, which names all of its Cygnus spacecrafts after notable astronauts, is honoring him by naming its NG-16 Cygnus spacecraft the S.S. Ellison Onizuka. According to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, the shuttle will deliver over 8,000 pounds of cargo to the International Space Station.
Shirley Matsuoka, Ellison’s sister, praised the company’s decision to the Hawaii Tribune-Herald.
“I was very excited and feel that it is a great tribute to Ellison and all of his hard work and dedication to the space program,” she said.
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