Who were the first Asian American astronauts in outer space?
First Humans in Space
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Ellison Shoji Onizuka (1946–1986) was born in Hawaii, earned a master’s degree in aerospace engineering, and served in the U.S. Air Force as a flight test engineer and test pilot, reaching the rank of lieutenant colonel. In 1978 NASA selected him for the astronaut corps, and he worked on a number of space shuttle missions on the ground. On January 24, 1985, as a member of the crew of the space shuttle Discovery, Onizuka became the first Asian American man in outer space. Tragically, on his second mission into space, he and his fellow shuttle crew members were killed aboard the space shuttle Challenger on January 28, 1986.
Dr. Kalpana Chawla (1961–2003) was born in Karnal, Haryana, India, and earned a Ph.D. in aerospace engineering in 1988 at the University of Colorado. She held a certified flight instructor rating and a commercial pilot’s license for numerous kinds of aircraft. She became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1990, and joined the NASA astronaut corps in 1995. On November 19, 1997, as a member of the crew of the space shuttle Columbia, Chawla became the first Asian American woman in outer space. Sadly, on her second mission into space, she and her fellow shuttle crew members were killed aboard the space shuttle Columbia on February 1, 2003.