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Would-be African Astronaut Dies

FILE - Mandla Maseko, wearing a bright orange Apollo Space Academy jumpsuit, walks on the dusty street near his family home at Soshanguve in Pretoria, South Africa, Feb. 3, 2014.

A South African man who won the chance to become the first black African in space has been killed in a motorcycle crash. Mandla Maseko was 30.

Maseko was killed in Pretoria over the weekend, according to a family statement released to the local media Monday.

In 2013, the part-time disc jockey and candidate officer for the South African air force beat a million entrants from 73 countries to become one of 23 people chosen to win a trip to space and a spot at the U.S.-based Axe Apollo Space Academy.

He spent a week training at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida in 2015.

"I want to be able to float and see outside the window and see this big, round, blue and white ball that is called Earth,'' Maseko told The Associated Press in 2014.

Dubbed "Afronaut," Maseko never got to experience his dream. The company organizing the flight, XCOR Aerospace, went bankrupt in 2017.

He went on to become an avid public speaker and community worker who inspired many African children to pursue careers in science, the family statement said.

The first African in space is white South African businessman Mark Shuttleworth, who bought a seat on a Russian Soyuz capsule for more than $15 million. He spent eight days aboard the international space station in 2002.

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