• Kyodo

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Lorna Onizuka, widow of Japanese-American astronaut Ellison Onizuka, who died in 1986 when the U.S. space shuttle Challenger exploded, received Friday an official commendation from Japan for promoting cooperation between Japan and the United States in the field of space.

Masami Takemoto, consul general in Houston, handed a commendation certificate to Lorna, 51, at a ceremony, Japanese officials in Houston said.

On Jan. 29, 1986 — two weeks after Lorna started working at the Houston office of Japan’s National Space Development Agency (NASDA) — the challenger accident occurred, killing Onizuka, a third-generation Japanese-American, and his fellow astronauts aboard the space shuttle.

Lorna has worked for NASDA for the past 15 years, supporting Japanese astronauts visiting Houston for training.

She also served as coordinator for a project to build the International Space Station.

“Onizuka’s death in the 1986 accident was so sad for me. But now I am very proud of being a member of NASDA because I am in a position to help promote cooperation between the two countries for space development,” Lorna said in a speech at the ceremony, at the Japanese Consulate General in Houston.

“I will continue to do my best to promote relations between the two countries, which would be the best way to honor my husband,” she said.

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