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​The First African Set to Travel Into Space has Passed Away

South African pilot, Mandla Maseko, would have been the first African to travel into space.

Mandla "Spaceboy" Maseko, a South African pilot and member of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF), competed with 1 million people back in 2014 and came out victorious as one of 23 people to win a seat on an hour-long trip to space. He would have been the first African to reach suborbital space but was tragically killed in a motorbike accident yesterday, News24 reports.


In 2013, the AXE Apollo Space Academy launched an online contest that sought to send men and women from 60 countries all over the world to travel to space on the state-of-the-art Lynx space planes. American astronaut, Buzz Aldrin, the second person to walk on the moon back in 1969 on NASA's Apollo 11 mission, even described the initiative as an "extraordinary opportunity to experience what [he'd] encountered in space".

One of Maseko's close friends, Sthembile Shabangu described him and his journey saying, "There were still rocket tests happening before they could go up. He really thought that if he went up to space he could inspire young African children that they could do anything. He used to always say that the sky was no longer the limit. She went on to add that, "He put a lot of people first and was an ambitious person with big dreams."

Africans, and more especially South Africans, are mourning the untimely death of the promising 30-year-old. Tributes continue to pour in for Maseko on social media.

Read more about Maseko's journey here.

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Photo by Don Paulsen/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Hugh Masekela's New York City Legacy

A look back at the South African legend's time in New York City and his enduring presence in the Big Apple.

In Questlove's magnificent documentary, Summer of Soul, he captures a forgotten part of Black American music history. But in telling the tale of the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival, the longtime musician and first-time filmmaker also captures a part of lost South African music history too.

Among the line-up of blossoming all-stars who played the Harlem festival, from a 19-year-old Stevie Wonder to a transcendent Mavis Staples, was a young Hugh Masekela. 30 years old at the time, he was riding the wave of success that came from releasing Grazing in the Grass the year before. To watch Masekela in that moment on that stage is to see him at the height of his time in New York City — a firecracker musician who entertained his audiences as much as he educated them about the political situation in his home country of South Africa.

The legacy Masekela sowed in New York City during the 1960s remains in the walls of the venues where he played, and in the dust of those that are no longer standing. It's in the records he made in studios and jazz clubs, and on the Manhattan streets where he once posed with a giant stuffed zebra for an album cover. It's a legacy that still lives on in tangible form, too, in the Hugh Masekela Heritage Scholarship at the Manhattan School of Music.

The school is the place where Masekela received his education and met some of the people that would go on to be life-long bandmates and friends, from Larry Willis (who, as the story goes, Masekela convinced to give up opera for piano) to Morris Goldberg, Herbie Hancock and Stewart Levine, "his brother and musical compadre," as Mabusha Masekela, Bra Hugh's nephew says.

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