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SA man set to be the first black African in space dies

R.I.P: Mandla Maseko (Photo credit: Mandla Maseko Instagram)

MANDLA MASEKO, a man who was set to be the first black African in space, has passed away at the age of 30.

Maseko, known amongst his friends and family as ‘afronaut’ or ‘spaceboy’ died in a motorcycle crash in Pretoria, South Africa on July 7.

DETERMINED

In 2014, Maseko won an international competition sponsored by Axe Apollo Space Academy granting him the opportunity to go to space. At the time of his success, he explained to The Guardian: “It hasn't really sunk in yet. I'm envious of myself, I'm not trying to make this a race thing, but us blacks grew up dreaming to a certain stage.

“You dreamed of being a policeman or a lawyer, but you knew you won't get as far as pilot or astronaut. Then I went to space camp and I thought, I can actually be an astronaut."

In 2015, Maseko went on to spend a week training for his suborbital flight at the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida. The aspirational astronaut told the BBC: “I hope I have one line that will be used in years to come - like Neil Armstrong did”

Unfortunately, he never made it to space. By 2017, the XCOR Aerospace company that were sponsoring his trip went bankrupt. But that did not stop Maseko.

He travelled across South Africa as a public speaker, delivering motivational speeches encouraging the young children of South Africa to pursue careers in science and engineering. And it was not long before his dedication to these children was recognised. In 2016, he was honoured by the Gauteng Department of Education in South Africa.

In the final years of his life, Maseko became a private pilot and corporal official with the South African National Defence Force.

LOSS

Following the announcement of his death a number of South Africans have taken to Twitter not only express their grief, but also to acknowledge what an inspirational and extraordinary Mandla Maseko was.

Thokozani Nkosi tweeted: “#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.”

While musician DJ SBU wrote: “My goodness this just came as a shock. I once interviewed him on my @metrofmsa radio show. What a sad tragic loss to a great n. Condolences to the family and loved ones. #RIPMandlaMaseko”

His renowned teaching “I armed myself with knowledge because I believe knowledge is power” will live on.

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