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Young Pretoria Based DJ Prepares To Be First Black African In Space

posted 24 Jan 2014, 05:51 by Mpelembe   [ updated 24 Jan 2014, 05:52 ]

A young South African is set to visit space after beating a million other contestants in a competition organised by a US-based space academy. Mandla Maseko will leave behind his life as a part-time DJ in a Pretoria township to venture where no African has gone before.

MABOPANE; PRETORIASOUTH AFRICA  (REUTERS) - Twenty five-year-old Mandla Maseko has been feeling out of this world for the last month. He won a competition organised by US-based space academy AXE Apollo and the prize was a return ticket to outer space and he will be the first black African to make the trip.

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Maseko, a part time DJ in South Africa's capital, Pretoria had no aviation experience or training in outer space travel, but he had a dream that he would one day be part of something extraordinary.

"Just when I think of the title 'first' and when I think of the name 'first' that comes with that title, its overwhelming. When you think of your first Mandela or your first Obama you know, all those people, its like wow. when it comes to opportunities I am hoping to pursue this... well not "I am hoping"... I am going to pursue this as a career," he said in an interview at his home.

Maseko grew up in the Mabopane township and calls himself a typical "townshipboy". He studied civil engineering in college but had to drop out before he could finish due to lack of fees.

In 2015, he will leave not only his family and friends in the township behind, but gravity and the earths atmosphere as well.

He beat a million other contestants from around the world to succeed in various gruelling tasks that tested him physically, mentally and emotionally. One of the tests involved sky diving from 10,000 feet.

Another test, maintaining balance and not throwing up in a spinning room that at some point had no floor.

After he was announced the winner, this young man from humble beginnings spent a week at the Kennedy Space Academy in Florida, USA, flying fighter jets and watching rockets launch into space.

He says the experience has grounded him and made him want to help other young people reach for audacious dreams because anything is possible.

"The reason why I did this was to motivate and inspire the youth, well mainly was to inspire the youth of my community but this is huge its bigger than me, so I'm taking it to another scale, I'm hoping this will inspire and motivate the youth of South Africaand Africa as a whole," he said.

Maseko has already captured the admiration of many young South Africans and has been spending time alongside his training to visit hospitals and schools where he encourages children to dream big and work hard.

After his space mission, Maseko plans to study aeronautical science and be able to sponsor other children from poor backgrounds to go through higher education.