Photo: Mandla Maseko
Mandla Maseko kitted out for his space adventure (file photo).
By Kaveel Singh
Mandla Maseko, 30, the first black African who would have travelled to space has died, his family confirmed on Sunday.
Maseko, popularly known as Spaceboy and Afronaut – beat 1 million people to become one of 23 people who won a seat sponsored by the Axe Apollo Space Academy, on an hour-long sub-orbital trip in 2014.
However, his trip to space was not meant to be after he was hit by a car while riding his motorcycle on Saturday.
“He was a larger than life figure. We are all still reeling at the moment. We are very distraught because most people only found out this morning. It is still very hard, painful and tragic,” his business manager and close friend Sthembile Shabangu told News24.
Shabangu said that even though Maseko did not end up going to space, he would have wanted his hope to spread.
“There were still rocket tests happening before they could go up. He really thought that if he went up to space he could inspire young African children that they could do anything. He used to always say that the sky was no longer the limit.”
She added: “He put a lot of people first and was an ambitious person with big dreams.”
A Soshanguve resident, Maseko went on to train as a private pilot and became a CPL with the South African National Defence Force.
Shabangu said that as a public speaker and community worker, Maseko worked to inspire many African children to pursue careers in science.
He was an avid biker with the Tshwane Legend Bikers.
In 2016 he was honored by the Gauteng Department of Education and had the science building at the Curtis Nkondo School of Specialisation named after him.
Details of his memorial service and funeral will be announced during the course of this week, Shabangu said.