2nd South African to head to space

2013-12-22 12:05
This is a model of the ship that will take Mandla Maskeko to space. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

This is a model of the ship that will take Mandla Maskeko to space. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

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Cape Town - South Africa's second astronaut has been announced after an extensive training and selection process.

Unilever announced on Sunday that Mandla Maskeko has been selected as the second South African to go into space as part of the company's Axe brand activation programme.

Maskeko is 24 years old and hails from Mabopane north of Pretoria. This choir performer and aspiring DJ dreams of travelling and will join 21 other candidates aboard the Lynx space craft developed by XCOR.

The vehicle will take off much like a regular aeroplane, but it is equipped with four rocket engines that propel the craft to Mach 3 in around three minutes.

At 60km up, the pilot will cut the engines to allow the craft to reach its maximum height of 103km. The occupants will see the curvature of the Earth and experience weightlessness for a few minutes.

High profile

Once the ship begins its glide back to the surface, the passengers will experience 4.5G for around 15 seconds when the pilot does a pull up manoeuvre to slow the Lynx down before landing.

Maskeko spent several weeks at the Axe Apollo Space Academy in Orlando, Florida where, along with other candidates - dubbed "Axe-tronauts" - he was subjected to a range of tests for space flight fitness.

He will be only the second South African to experience space after internet billionaire Mark Shuttleworth who bought his ticket in 2002 to the International Space Station.

Unilever's Axe campaign, which was one of the most high profile marketing exercises in SA, was unique in that online channels made up a significant portion of communicating the brand message.

"In terms of online reach and PR [public relations], we have received a huge amount of earned PR from this campaign, showing a great return on investment from what we have invested," Axe South Africa brand manager Vincent Viviers told News24.

- Follow Duncan on Twitter
Read more on:    unilever  |  space

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