Mandla Maseko from South Africa is about to set a record by becoming the first black African to travel into space.
The 25-year-old is among 23 young people who beat 1 million other entrants from around the world to win the Lynx Apollo Space Academy competition. The lucky winners will receive tickets to fly on XCOR Aerospace's Lynx spacecraft operated by Space Expedition Corporation.
Maseko – along with other participants – is expected to travel into space in 2015.
Let’s know more about this young man who has already become a source of inspiration and pride, especially for the members of his community and country.
“@MandlaMaseko1: lol... Yeah, U Told Me So. And I'm glad u predicted it all. Godspeed ;-).” so proud of you! You are destined 4 greatness!— Criselda Kananda (@positivegp) December 24, 2013
Proud of Mandla Maseko , a partime student and a Dj from Mabopane! Google him baby!— refilwe (@Queen_reelo) December 23, 2013
Mandla Maseko is the son of a toolmaker and cleaning supervisor from Mabopane which is often described as the largest of the Black townships within the Pretoria area.
“Once it rains, the lights go out," he told The Guardian in an interview. "I do know the life of a candle."
For him, this is a big achievement since he belongs to a place where black people have certain limits to their dreams and aspirations.
“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 policeman or a lawyer but you knew you won’t get as far as pilot or astronaut. Then I went to space camp and I thought, I can actually be an astronaut,” he stated.
He will not only be the first black African to enter space, but also the second South African in space following the footsteps of Mark Shuttleworth, a white space tourist and an entrepreneur who became the first citizen of an independent African country to travel to space.
His first hero – before late Nelson Mandela – is his father who went against all odds to provide for his family. Maseko’s dad grew up in such poverty that “he got his first pair of shoes when he was 16.”
“My dad provided for us. He is my hero, and then Nelson Mandela comes after.”
Maseko’s inspiration was driven by his love for the science fiction series Star Trek and films such as Armageddon and Apollo 13.
“I thought, that looks fun. No matter what life throws at you, you can use it and come out on top. If you get lemons, you must make lemon juice.”
He previously enrolled as a part-time civil engineering student, however he quit the program due to lack of funds. Maseko likes racing fast cars, singing in church on a Sunday and he is also a part-time DJ, according to Sunday World (SW).
The young spaceman doesn’t drink or smoke and also does not have a girlfriend. He lives with his parents in Mabopane.
“I've been single for a year now and it doesn't bother me that much - a relationship is the last thing on my mind right now,” he told SW.
According to Mandla Maseko, his expedition means a lot not only for him but also for his country.
“South Africahas come a long way. We have reached a stage where we are equal and we are one. Next year is the 20th anniversary of democracy and what better way to celebrate than sending the first black South African into space?”
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