Onizuka attended the University of Colorado, earning both a Bachelor and Master of Science degree in aeronauticalonautical engineering. He joined the United States Air Force in January, 1970 and attended the Air Force Test Pilot School at Edwards Air Force Base in California in August,1974.
Against stiff competition, Onizuka was selected in 1978 as one of 35 astronauts for NASA’s Space Shuttle Program. He was the first Japanese-American selected to participate in America’s space program.
In 1982, he was selected to serve on the launch support crews for the space shuttle flights of the Columbia, Challenger, and Discovery crafts. At the time of his City Club speech, he had been desginated to serve as a mission speclialist on the fourth space flight of Challenger scheduled for November, 1983. Onizuka speaks about the rigorous astronaut selection and training process.
In 1985, he would became the first Asian-American, the first Japanese-American, and the first Hawaiian in space as an astronaut on the space shuttle Discovery. Tragically, Onizuka died on January 28, 1986 when the Challenger exploded 73 seconds after lift-off, an event that stunned the world and changed NASA forever.