Mandla Maseko: Would-be African astronaut dies in road crash

Mandla Maseko, 30, a South African who won the chance to be the first black African in space has died in a motorbike accident before turning his dream into reality.

In 2013, Maseko beat one million entrants to win one of 23 places at a space academy in the US. Nicknamed Afronaut and Spaceboy, Maseko described himself as a typical township boy.

Born to a school cleaner and auto tool maker in Soshanguve township near Pretoria, his win was a source of national pride and had neighbours high-fiving him for putting South Africa’s townships on the “galactic map”.

He had spent a week at the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida doing tests in preparation for an hour-long sub-orbital flight, originally scheduled for 2015.

Maseko was desperate to do something that would motivate and inspire young people in Africa to prove the they could achieve anything whatever their background. He told journalists before he died, "I hope I have one line that will be used in years to come - like Neil Armstrong did.” .

The US astronaut, who died in 2012 aged 82, was the first man ever to walk on the Moon in 1969. As he stepped on to the lunar surface, he famously said: "That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind."

Maseko had been originally scheduled to fly in 2015 but no firm plans for his trip had been made public at the time of his death.

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