Astronaut Ellison S. Onizuka Memorial (2012)

The monument to Ellison Onizuka, the first Japanese-American astronaut, who died in the 1986 explosion of the space shuttle Challenger.

Though born in Hawaii, Onizuka had strong ties with the Japanese-American community in Los Angeles. After his death, merchants in Little Tokyo formed a non-profit memorial committee that continues to promote space science to young people. In 1989, the committee commissioned Isao Hirai, president of the Scale Model Company in the Los Angeles suburb of Hawthorne, to design and build a one-tenth scale fiberglass model of the Challenger. The model stands 8.3 meters high, atop a black granite pedestal with a bas-relief portrait and biographical sketch of Onizuka in English and Japanese. The memorial was dedicated in 1990, and refurbished in 2011.

Little Tokyo is within easy walking distance of Los Angeles City Hall. In composing this picture, I included that prominent landmark in the gap between the monument’s shuttle model and pedestal.

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