Mandla Maseko death: Man set to be first black African in space dies in motorbike crash

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A South African man who had won a competition to become the first black African to go to space has died in a motorbike crash.

Mandla Maseko, 30, was killed in Pretoria on Saturday, according to a family statement.

Maseko won the opportunity in an international competition to get a place in the Axe Apollo Space Academy and spent a week in training at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida in 2015.

His goal was to go into suborbital flight, during which he would experience weightlessness.

He was nicknamed “Afronaut” and “Spaceboy” in his home country.

Maseko, who grew up in a poor township outside of Pretoria, said his role model was Nelson Mandela during an interview with The Associated Press in 2014.

“He broke new ground by being the first black president in South Africa … that was inspiration for me,” he said.

The space flight never took place, as the company organising it, XCOR Aerospace, went bankrupt in 2017.

Maseko 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.

He gave motivational speeches in South Africa, and in 2014 he said: “Defy gravity in everything that you do by shooting for the moon.”

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He had also said he wanted to motivate and inspire young people in Africa.

In 2014, he told the BBC: ”I hope I have one line that will be used in years to come – like Neil Armstrong did.”

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