Mandla Maseko, a South African man who had won the opportunity to become the first black African to go into space, has died in a motorcycle crash. He was 30.
Mr Maseko was killed in Pretoria over the weekend, according to a family statement reported by local media on Monday (local time). Throughout space travel’s history, there have only been white astronauts from the African continent, those being South Africa’s Mike Melvill and Mark Shuttleworth.
All other astronauts of black African heritage have been from the United States or Cuba.
#RIPMandlaMaseko Afronaut extraordinaire. What a tragic loss of a promising SA personality who’d already soared so high and had been on track to reach much higher levels of influence in the world of science and astronomy. Condolences to the Maseko family. Akwehlanga Lungehlanga pic.twitter.com/yujORCJ6FV— Thokozani Nkosi (@ThokozaniNkosi) July 7, 2019
Mr Maseko became known as an “Afronaut” and was an inspiration to many South Africans when he won an international competition to get a place in the Axe Apollo Space Academy. He spent a week in training at the United States’ Kennedy Space Centre in 2015.View image on Twitter
His goal was to go into suborbital flight during which he would experience weightlessness.
“I want to be able to float and see outside the window and see this big, round, blue and white ball that is called Earth,” Mr Maseko said in 2014.
The budding astronaut, who came from a poor township outside Pretoria, said his role model was late South African freedom fighter and president Nelson Mandela.
“He broke new ground by being the first black president in South Africa … that was inspiration for me,” Mr Maseko said.
Although the space flight did not take place, Mr Maseko was still trying.
He was working as a part-time DJ and was a candidate officer in the South African air force, according to South Africa’s Eye Witness News.
Mr Maseko gave motivational speeches in South Africa, and in 2014 he said:
“Defy gravity in everything that you do by shooting for the Moon.”