Notable Deaths ›

Mandla Maseko (2019), South African scheduled to be first black African in space

Getty Images / AFP / Alexander Joe

Inspired young Africans to pursue careers in science

Mandla Maseko was a South African Air Force member who was poised to become the first black African in space. Maseko, who had studied civil engineering, won a contest sponsored by the Axe Apollo Space Academy that gave him a chance to embark on a suborbital flight. He trained for the trip at the Kennedy Space Academy in Florida, where he met Buzz Aldrin. His journey to space was intended to take place in 2015, but it was postponed indefinitely. In the meantime, Maseko became a private pilot and a corporal with the South African National Defense Force.  

We invite you to share condolences for Mandla Maseko in our Guest Book.  

Died: July 6, 2019 (Who else died on July 6?)  

Details of death: Died in a motorbike accident at the age of 30.  


Is there someone you miss whose memory should be honored? Here are some ways.


Sharing his love for science: Maseko became a sought-after public speaker and inspired young Africans to go into the sciences. In 2016, a science building at a South African school was named after him.  

Notable quote: “I’m not trying to make this a race thing but us blacks grew up dreaming to a certain stage. You dreamed of being a politician or a lawyer but you knew you wouldn’t get as far as pilot or astronaut. Then I went to space camp and I thought, I can actually be an astronaut.” —from a 2013 interview with The Guardian  

What people said about him: “#RIPMandlaMaseko Didn’t know the guy, but he was going to do great things for this proud land of Africa. One more beacon pf light is gone. We salute you.” —Twitter user @fanamokoena  

“A testimony that our dreams are valid regardless of how far fetched they seem. #RIPMandlaMaseko #RIPAfronaut you’re now in #PlanetHeaven, your final destination.” —Twitter user @siphukuthula_L  

“Condolences to Mandla Maseko. You have inspired young South Africans and showed the world that the sky isn’t the limit. #Spaceboy” —Twitter user @AfricaOnenation  

Full obituary: CNN  

Related lives:  

- Neil Armstrong (1930 - 2012), first person to walk on the Moon  

- Jerrie Cobb (1931 - 2019), NASA’s first female astronaut candidate

- Remembering the Lives of NASA Personnel