Mandla Maseko, First African Astronaut Dies at 30

PRETORIA, South Africa - In the era when space travel has been front and center, with private entities like SpaceX making great strides in humanity’s quest to explore this frontier, what we have not seen are very many people of color. Therefore, it is with great sadness that Mandla Maseko, 30, the first black African who would have traveled to space has died.

Mandla Maseko, via Khuzeni Associates

Mandla Maseko, via Khuzeni Associates

According to MSN Maseko beat out “1 million people to become one of 23 people who won a seat sponsored by the Axe Apollo Space Academy competition that is under the SXC (Space Expedition Corporation)., on an hour-long sub-orbital trip in 2014.

According to his close friend and manager, Sthembile Shabangu, and as reported by News24, Maseko died in a motorcycle crash in South Africa on Saturday, 6 July 2019. “Spaceboy,” to which he was fondly referred, was a member of the Tshwane Legend Bikers. Maseko was poised to represent the aspirations of the peoples of the Continent, so to die senselessly, not in space, but on the road in Pretoria is tragic.

In addition to his pursuits as a space traveler, he was also dubbed “Afronaut,” because of his high-profile as a DJ in South Africa. Before his selection, Maseko had flown to NASA's Kennedy Space Centre in Florida for G-force and skydiving training, to prepare for the 62-mile ascent into sub-orbit planned for 2015. He later went on to train as a private pilot and was also a corporal with the South African National Defense Force (SANDF).

A strong proponent of STEM Education, in 2016 Maseko had the science building at the Curtis Nkondo School of Specialisation named after him and was also honored by the Gauteng Department of Education. During the coming week, his family plans to announce memorial and funeral details. May they be comforted among all mourners, our thoughts and prayers are with them. Rest in peace my brother.

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