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South African aiming to be 1st black African in space dies

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.

Maseko was killed in Pretoria over the weekend, according to a family statement reported by local media Monday.

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 and spent a week in training at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida in 2015. His goal was to go into suborbital flight in 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,” Maseko told The Associated Press in 2014.

Mandla Maseko’s grey Apollo Space Academy jumpsuit is seen with a trophy at his family home in 2014. Maseko became known as an “Afronaut” and was an inspiration to many South Africans. (Themba Hadebe/Associated Press)

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

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

Although the space flight didn’t take place, Maseko was still trying. He was working as a part-time disc jockey and was a candidate officer in the South African air force, according to South Africa’s Eye Witness News.

Maseko 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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