In 2015, a 25 year-old South African man named Mandla Maseko will be the first African to go to space. Maseko was chosen through a competition organized by the Axe Apollo Space Academy. He was up against one million international competitors. Maseko and 22 other winners will travel 64 miles into space. The journey there takes one hour for a sub-orbital blast into the atmosphere on the Lynx Mark II spaceship. A trip such as this typically costs $100,000.
Mandla Maseko is from a township close to Pretoria in South Africa. He was raised in a meager household with four siblings; one of his parents works as a toolmaker, the other a cleaning supervisor. The young man had dreamed of being an astronaut since attending space camp. He would see American films such as “Star Trek” and “Apollo 13” in awe, hoping to one day be among the ranks of top space travelers.
The news of Maseko’s win came only hours after it was announced that former South African President Nelson Mandela had passed away. He thought deeply of Mandela when he realized that he too would be making history. Maseko had to put his studies in civil engineering on hold because he didn’t have the money to finish school. He works part time as a DJ to pay expenses.
During the competition, Maseko, who had been one of the original 100 finalists, traveled to the states to undergo a series of tests: assault courses, skydiving, air combat and G-force training, building and launching a rocket, and a written aptitude test. He completed his training for judge and legendary astronaut Buzz Aldrin.