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South Africa mourns the death of would-be first 'Afronaut'

South Africa is mourning the death of Mandla Maseko, the man who had his eyes set on becoming the first black African to go into space.

The 30-year-old died in a motorcycle crash in Pretoria over the weekend, according to a family statement reported by local media.

Maseko became an inspiration to many South Africans when he won an international competition to get a training place at the Axe Apollo Space Academy – and a possible space flight.

I was inspired by (Nelson) Mandela because he broke new ground. Him being the first black president in South Africa at the time that our country was in, it was a massive thing. So for an ordinary person to do extraordinary things, that to me was an inspiration enough

From more than one million entrants, he was selected to be one of 23 civilians to compete for a seat onboard a sub-orbital flight, 100 kilometres above the Earth.

Maseko, who came from a poor township outside Pretoria, said that his role model was Nelson Mandela.

South Africa’s “Afronaut”, as the young man became known, spent a week in training at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida in 2015.

Although the actual space flight didn’t take place in the end, Maseko was still trying.

The part-time disc jockey was a candidate officer in the air force, according to South Africa’s Eye Witness News.

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

Photo credit: Mandla “Spaceboy” Maseko Facebook page