SA man set for space dies in motorbike accident

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TO GO WITH AFP STORY 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. 25-year-old Maseko has landed a coveted seat to fly 103-kilometres (64 miles) into space in 2015, after winning a competition organised by a US-based space academy. He beat off a million other entrants from 75 countries to win the $100,000 seat. The South African "typical township boy" was named one of the 23 winners worldwide shortly after the announcement of the death of icon and first black president Nelson Mandela. AFP PHOTO / ALEXANDER JOE (Photo credit should read ALEXANDER JOE/AFP/Getty Images)
TO GO WITH AFP STORY 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. 25-year-old Maseko has landed a coveted seat to fly 103-kilometres (64 miles) into space in 2015, after winning a competition organised by a US-based space academy. He beat off a million other entrants from 75 countries to win the $100,000 seat. The South African “typical township boy” was named one of the 23 winners worldwide shortly after the announcement of the death of icon and first black president Nelson Mandela. AFP PHOTO / ALEXANDER JOE (Photo credit should read ALEXANDER JOE/AFP/Getty Images)

The would-be first black African man to go to space has died in an unfortunate motorbike accident before achieving his monumental goal.

South African Mandla Maseko, 30, died on Saturday, a family statement says.

In 2013, the South African Air Force member beat one million entrants to win one of 23 places at a space academy in the US.

He had spent a week at the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida doing tests in preparation for the space flight, scheduled to be an hour-long sub-orbital trip on the Lynx Mark II spaceship. However, it had yet to happen at the time of Maseko’s death, originally scheduled for 2015.

“I wanted to do something that will motivate and inspire the youth of South Africa and Africa as a whole, and hopefully to some extent, the youth worldwide, and show that it doesn’t matter what background you come from, you can have whatever you want as long as you put hard work and determination into it,” he said in an interview with the BBC.

Nicknamed Afronaut and Spaceboy, Maseko described himself as a typical township boy from Pretoria. There has been an outpouring of tributes on social media for the young South African.

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