'Afronaut' who won space trip dies in motorcycle accident

His death leaves a nation in mourning.
His death leaves a nation in mourning. Photo credit: Mandla Maseko / Instagram

A man who won a trip into space has been killed in a motorcycle crash.

South African Mandla Maseko - also known as Spaceboy and Afronaut - beat a million people to win a seat on a sub-orbital trip sponsored by the Axe Apollo Space Academy. It would have made him the first black African in 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," a family spokesperson said in a media release on Sunday (local time).

"Maseko will be sorely missed. May Mandla Maseko's kind and beautiful soul rest in eternal peace."

Maseko born in the Soshanguve township near Pretoria, the son of a school cleaner and auto tool maker. The part-time DJ's win was a source of national pride and made him a hero to young people in Africa.

"I wanted to do something that will motivate and inspire the youth of South Africa and Africa as a whole, and hopefully to some extent, the youth worldwide and show that it doesn't matter what background you come from, you can have whatever you want as long as you put hard work and determination into it," he told the BBC in January.

His death has left South Africa in mourning, and social media has been filled with tributes for Maseko.

"A testimony that our dreams are valid regardless of how far fetched they seem," one person wrote on Twitter.

"#RIPMandlaMaseko #RIPAfronaut you're now in #PlanetHeaven, your final destination."