First black African set to go to space dies

Mandla Maseko in 2014

News of 30-year-old Mandla Maseko's passing was shared by his family in a statement.

He beat a million people to win a sub-orbital trip that could have seen him become the first black African in space. The following year, he spent a week at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, training for a suborbital flight.

He urged the BBC he deliberate to call them from space.

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

TO GO WITHSTORY BY SUSAN NJANJI Mandla Maseko speaks to a journalist in front of two hanged NASA spacesuits on January 9, 2014, in Mabopane, north of Pretoria. It was unfortunate when the news of Mandla Maseko death on Saturday, 6th of July, 2019 was announced to the general public after he got hit by a vehicle at the time he was riding his motorcycle.

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Sthembile Shabangu, the family spokesperson, said he brought the family together.

On Sunday, as news of Maseko's death became public, social media users expressed sadness at the loss of a young man who they said inspired hope and optimism.

Throughout space travel's history, there have only been white astronauts produced from the African continent, those being South Africa's Mike Melvill and Mark Shuttleworth.

Maseko trained as a private pilot with the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) and emerged as a corporal. We are very distraught because most people only found out this morning. In recognition of his impact and motivating spirit, the Gauteng Department of Education in 2016 honoured him and named the science building located at the Curtis Nkondo School of Specialisation after him. "He used to always say that the sky was no longer the limit".

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