34 years ago, Hawaii lost one of its own in Challenger disaster

34 years ago, Hawaii lost one of its own in Challenger disaster
The seven crew members of the space shuttle Challenger died with the shuttle exploded on Jan. 28, 1986.

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Thirty-four years ago, the Challenger explosion killed seven astronauts, including Hawaii’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 in disbelief as you can see in these three videos from the HNN archives.

From Joy To Pure Terror

The final hours of space shuttle Challenger crew

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.

Onizuka’s Mission

1986 NASA produced mini documentary about Ellison Onizuka

Onizuka's brother, Claude, saw the tragedy first-hand.

"We were about three miles from the launch site out in an open observation area. When the Challenger blew up, it was almost overhead," he said.

An investigation showed cold temperatures compromised the seals in the Challenger's twin rocket boosters.

Onizuka was born June 24, 1946 on Hawaii Island.
Onizuka was born June 24, 1946 on Hawaii Island.

Onizuka said when his brother was alive, he prepared his family for a worst-case scenario.

“Ellison always told us if anything went wrong, it’s like sitting on top of a giant bomb,” Claude Onizuka recounted, when HNN interviewed him back in 2016.

Hawaii Mourns The Loss Of A Hero

In 1986 Hawaii mourned the loss of a hero

Related coverage:

A photo brought to space in honor of Ellison Onizuka finds its Hawaii home

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