Mandla Maseko was set to become the first black African to travel to space after he won the Axe Apollo Space Academy competition. Picture: Thobile Mathonsi/African News Agency (ANA)

Pretoria - Tributes are pouring in for Mandla Maseko, who was on track to become the first black African in space. Maseko died in a motorcycle accident on Saturday night.

On Sunday, as news of Maseko's death became public, social media users expressed sadness at the loss of a young man who they said inspired hope and optimism.

"Maseko - popularly known as Spaceboy and Afronaut - beat 1 million people to become one of 23 people who won a seat sponsored by the Axe Apollo Space Academy on an hour-long suborbital trip in 2014," his family said in a statement on Sunday.

However, the trip had not yet happened at the time of his death.

"Maseko, 30, a Soshanguve native, went on to train as a private pilot and became a corporal in the South African National Defence Force [SANDF]," the family statement said.

"As a public speaker and community worker, Maseko worked to inspire many African children to pursue careers in science. His community work saw him join the Corsa Utility Club Mzansi. [He was] An avid biker with the Tshwane Legend Bikers."

In 2016 he was honored by the Gauteng education department and had the science building at the Curtis Nkondo School of Specialisation named after him.

"Maseko will be solely missed. May Mandla Maseko’s kind and beautiful soul rest In eternal peace," the family said.

Details of his memorial service and funeral would be announced during the course of this week.

African News Agency (ANA)