Onizuka Space Museum

The space museum to see while on the Big Island. Learn the history of Hawaii’s first astronaut.

On January 28, 1986 all eyes were glued to their television sets as the Challenger began to launch into space. Suddenly tragedy struck as the Challenger exploded before it could exit the Earth’s atmosphere and head into space, killing the crew. An eerie silence fell over the air waves and in the class rooms.

I was 6 years old when the mission was broadcasted across the television and over head speaker system at my school. The moment has been forever frozen in time in several states nation wide, including Hawaii.

When most people think of the explosion they remember the first civilian, a teacher who was selected to travel into the depths of space. Not in Hawaii. Ellison S. Onizuka is the person Hawaii remembers and honors.

Col. Onizuka was one of the eight crew members who fate was to perished on that fatal flight. Born in the Kona area on the Big Island of Hawaii, he was chosen from over 8000 candidates as one of the 35 astronaut recruits. Onizuka was Hawaii’s first astronaut, and to honor him the Ellison S. Onizuka Space Center was erected.

If you travel to the Big Island and are arriving or departing from the Keahole Airport in Kona or just passing through the area stop by and see this one of a kind Museum. Operated by friends and family of Onizuka, they express fondness and honor for their relative who so bravely dared to go where none of them have dared to tread. Frozen moments in time of Onizuka’s life hang silently from the walls. Family and friends remember his as a kind and friendly, always willing to go the extra mile for strangers.

Pictures of not only Onizuka, but the crew of the Challenger lines the walls. This small but informative and innovative museum tests your skills as you manipulate the hand held controls of The Manned Maneuvering Unit replica to rendezvous with an object in space. You can launch a miniature space shuttle or log on to the space shuttle computer program.

The museum is just right of the check in terminals. There will be a small fee at the door and the museum takes about an hour to explore. So if you are in the area check it out and learn why Hawaii is so dedicated to the night skies and of the life and death of Hawaii’s first Astronaut.