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First ‘Afronaut’ set for space dies at 30

AN ASPIRING astronaut in line to become the first black African in space has died in a motorbike accident at the age of 30.

Mandla Maseko — dubbed Afronaut and Spaceboy — was killed in a crash in South Africa on Saturday, his distraught family have revealed.

Mr Maseko (pictured), a South African Air Force member from Pretoria, was one of 23 winners of the Lynx Apollo Space Academy contest in 2013 for places on an hour-long sub-orbital trip. He saw off one million other entrants and spent a week at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida for tests.

However, he was not able to fulfil his ambition as his flight — first scheduled for 2015 — was repeatedly delayed and the firm behind it went bust.

Mr Maseko, a part-time DJ, wrote in his competition application: ‘I want to defy the laws of gravity and go down in history as the first black South African in space.’

He later told the BBC: ‘Now space is reachable. It was a far-fetched dream for us township people — now it is achievable.’

Admirers yesterday paid tribute, with Vezuchiy Fanashnikov tweeting: ‘One more beacon of light is gone. We salute you.’

Castro Ngobese posted: ‘Wherever you are in the nooks and crannies of the universe, you will always be missed — a life well lived.’