On this day in 1986: Astronaut Ellison Onizuka dies in Challenge - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

On this day in 1986: Astronaut Ellison Onizuka dies in Challenger explosion

CNN broadcast the launch live on Jan. 28, 1986. (Image: CNN Archives) CNN broadcast the launch live on Jan. 28, 1986. (Image: CNN Archives)

It's been 32 years since the Challenger explosion killed seven astronauts, including Big Island's Ellison Onizuka.

The horrific scene was broadcast live on national television when, 73 seconds after liftoff from the Kennedy Space Station, the rocket exploded. 

The nation watched and listened over radio waves in disbelief.

Onizuka was 39 when he died. He was NASA's first Asian American astronaut. 

Born and raised in Kealakekua, Onizuka left a lasting legacy on the Big Island.

On Saturday, the community held the 18th annual Astronaut Onizuka Science Day. 

The celebration, held at the University of Hawaii Hilo, honors Onizuka's contributions to space exploration.

Nearly two dozen interactive workshops provided students the chance to experience virtual reality, robotics, telescopes and rocket ships. 

"There's alot of 'oohs' and 'ahhs' (and) they're very excited. That's the experience they're going to remember," Virginia Aragon-Barnes with the Thirty Meter Telescope project said.  

"What really gets me is ... inside our passports, (there's) actually a quote from Ellison Onizuka," Aragon-Barnes added.

The quote reads, "Every generation has the obligation to free men's minds for a look at new worlds, to look out from a higher plateau than the last generation."

"That is why we are here today, and that's the inspiration he's given," Aragon-Barnes said.  

Every year Astronaut Onizuka Science Day is highlighted with a keynote speech by a NASA astronaut. This year's special guest was Astronaut Jack Fisher who's had multiple missions aboard the International Space Station.

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