Historic Handoff at Stadium Centerfield

Historic Handoff at Stadium Centerfield
Posted on 11/13/2017
This is the image for the news article titled Historic Handoff at Stadium CenterfieldNovember 3, 2017 marked the poignant end of a 31-year journey for a soccer ball, a family and a school.

During halftime of that November 3 Clear Lake High School versus Clear Creek High School Friday football game, a special reunion took place bringing people bound together by a soccer ball that was intended to fly on the Space Shuttle Challenger 51L mission in 1986. Challenger Astronaut Colonel Ellison Onizuka had originally intended to take the ball on his journey into space on the ill-fated flight. His daughter, Janelle Onizuka, was a member of the Clear Lake High School soccer team in 1986. She and her teammates had signed the soccer ball before giving it to her father before the flight.

Soon after the Challenger accident, the soccer ball was discovered in the accident debris and eventually returned to Clear Lake High School. Expedition 50 Commander Col. Shane Kimbrough offered to take the soccer ball with him on his recent mission to the International Space Station, allowing the ball to complete its journey into space.

The November 3 game was the backdrop for the very special return of the soccer ball to its original owners. After the Clear Lake High School marching band set the stage with their halftime performance, Space Odyssey, Col. Kimbrough presented the soccer ball to Janelle Onizuka.

“This ball has been on quite a journey,” Col. Kimbrough said. “Over 73 million miles, it’s orbited our planet 2,768 times, it’s been in every module of the International Space Station and now it’s my distinct honor to present it back to the Onizuka family.”

The Onizuka family in turn handed over the space artifact to Principal Dr. Karen Engle and Clear Lake High School, where the ball may continue to signify a journey of many miles, and perseverance, to all who view it.

Lorna Onizuka also presented a signed photograph of the Space Shuttle Challenger crew to Dr. Engle. “It is very special because there are not very many of them. But I would like very much for Clear Lake High School to have this,” said Onizuka.

Also on field for the special presentation were several members of the 1986 soccer team and their coach, Amy Woolsey; Cheryl McNair, widow of Challenger Astronaut Ronald McNair; Former Astronaut and Former Johnson Space Center Director, Mike Coats; Former Astronaut Loren Shriver; Former Astronaut Jim Buchli; Astronaut Mike Fincke; NASA Johnson Space Center Acting Deputy Center Director, Vanessa Wyche; Superintendent Dr. Greg Smith, Dr. Karen Engle and Clear Lake High School Soccer coach Jered Shriver.

Photos & Video:
Video Introduction to Halftime
Video of Halftime Ceremony
Ceremony Photo Gallery
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