Mandla Maseko, who would have been the first black African to travel to space, has died at age 30, his family confirmed on Sunday.
In 2013, the Global Axe Apollo Space Academy competition created a new trajectory for Mandla Maseko’s dreams. No one in Maseko’s family had set foot outside of South Africa, but he was selected to go to space. Maseko was one of 23 civilians to win a seat on the space mission for an hour-long sub-orbital trip of 100 kilometres on the Lynx Mark II spaceship.
“He was a larger-than-life figure. We are all still reeling at the moment. We are very distraught because most people only found out this morning. It is still very hard, painful and tragic,” his business manager and close friend, Sthembile Shabangu, disclosed to the media.
Shabangu further stated that even though Maseko had ended up not going to space, he would have wanted his hope to spread.
“There were still rocket tests that had to happen before they could go up. He really thought that if he went up to space, he could inspire young African children to do anything. He used to always say that the sky was no longer the limit.He put a lot of people first and was an ambitious person with big dreams”, she added.
A Soshanguve resident, Maseko trained as a private pilot and became a corporal with the South African National Defence Force. As a public speaker and community worker, Maseko worked to inspire many African children to pursue careers in science.
His community work saw him join the Corsa Utility Club, Mzansi. He was also active with the Tshwane Legend Bikers. In 2016 he was honored by the Gauteng Department of Education and had the Science building at the Curtis Nkondo School of Specialisation named after him.