South African to be 1st black African in space

VIDEO - Mandla Maseko is set to fulfill his ambition to become the first black African to travel into space. He has been selected as one of the 23 civilians to be on a suborbital flight 62 miles above earth in a commercial space plane...

How do you beat one million people in a competition to travel into space? You defy gravity. And you set out to make history while doing it.

At least that’s what worked for 25-year-old Mandla Maseko. The former South African DJ was one of 23 people selected to take a sub-orbital flight into space aboard the XCOR Aerospace Lynx spacecraft.

“When they announced the winners and called out my name I wasn’t prepared,” Maseko wrote in an article for BBC News. “So the minute I realized that it was my name that got called out, my body ignited – it was an out of body experience. It still hasn’t really sunk in yet. I think it’ll sink in the minute I launch into space.”

The competition involved a series of tests, exercises at space camp which included skydiving and other acrobatic feats. Maseko was selected by a panel that included astronaut Buzz Aldrin, the second man to walk on the moon.

The trip will take place in 2015 and, according to the Associated Press, would make Maseko the first black African in space.

“What I’m looking forward to the most about the trip is seeing myself in that moment when I get up on my seat and I start floating,” Maseko told the Associated Press. “And then I look outside my window and see this big round ball that is blue and white called Earth.”

Maseko says he was inspired throughout the space competition by late South African icon Nelson Mandela’s life.

“He broke new ground,” Maseko said. “Being the first black president in South Africa at the time our country was in, it was a massive thing. So, for an ordinary person to do extraordinary things, that to me was inspiration enough.”

Video by Maggie Mazzetti, Associated Press