South African headed for space dies in motorcycle accident

Mandla Maseko beat out a million people in 2013 to win the sub-orbital trip.

PRETORIA, South Africa -- A South African man who was expected to become the first black African in space was killed when his motorcycle was struck by a car on Saturday.

Mandla Maseko beat out a million people in 2013 to win a sub-orbital trip sponsored by the Axe Apollo Space Academy.

The 30-year-old Maseko, popularly known as “Spaceboy” and “Afronaut,” was one of 23 people who won a seat on the trip to space.

“It is with deep sadness that the Maseko family confirms that Mandla Maseko tragically passed away in a bike accident last night, July 6 2019,” his business manager and close friend Sthembile Shabangu said in a media release.

“Maseko will be sorely missed." Shabangu said. "May Mandla Maseko’s kind and beautiful soul rest in eternal peace.”

The space flight was scheduled to be an hour-long sub-orbital trip on the Lynx Mark II spaceship. However it had not yet happened at the time of Maseko's passing -- and it's possible that it never will, as reported that the company organizing the flight, XCOR Aerospace, went bankrupt two years ago.

Maseko’s death was met with an outpouring of grief on social media.

Shabangu said that even though Maseko did not end up going into space, he would have wanted his hope to spread.

"There were still rocket tests happening before they could go up," Shabangu said. "He really thought that if he went up to space he could inspire young African children that they could do anything. He used to always say that the sky was no longer the limit."

A memorial service for Maseko will be held on Wednesday.