St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital announced Monday that former patient and bone cancer survivor Hayley Arceneaux will join billionaire Jared Isaacman on the first all-civilian SpaceX flight later this year. As a 29-year-old, Arceneaux becomes the youngest American as well as the first person with a prosthetic body part to go out into space.
“My battle with cancer really prepared me for space travel,” said Arceneaux, who now works as a medical assistant in St. Louis. Jude, to the Associated Press. “It made me tough, and then I also think it really taught me to expect the unexpected and go with the ride.”
Arceneaux grew up in Louisiana and first had dreams of becoming an astronaut when her family traveled to NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston when she was 9 years old. Shortly after this visit, she received life-changing news when she was diagnosed with bone cancer at 10 a.m. As part of her treatment, Arceneaux had to undergo surgery at St. Jude to replace the knee and get a metal bar in the left femur. .
“I told myself over and over again as I went through treatment that God had a plan,” she said in a recent St. Jude interview. Now, almost 20 years later, Arceneaux’s upcoming journey into space looks like a moment in full circle. “I am overwhelmingly grateful for his faithfulness and my wild journey.”
The 29-year-old was chosen as one of four people to join Isaacman, pilot and founder of the payment processing company Shift4 Payments, on his charity mission titled Inspiration4. Isaacman announced the mission earlier this year with a promise to raise $ 200 million for St. Jude to help fight cancer in children. The 38-year-old entrepreneur, who according to Forbes has a net worth of $ 2.3 billion, has already committed $ 100 million of his own money to the case.
In a tweet Monday, Isaacman said he was excited that Arceneaux would join him in space, and he knows she will be an “inspiration to people around the world.”
In addition to Arceneaux, the other seats on Isaacman’s mission will be occupied by a winner selected from a competition that raises money for St. Jude and by an entrepreneur who wins a contest sponsored by Shift4 Payments. Isaacman is expected to announce who these individual winners are in March.
Right now, the cancellation of the mission is targeted for October at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, where the trip will last for two to four days, reports AP. Isaacman, who bought the rocket launch from Elon Musk’s SpaceX for an undisclosed amount, says he believes this mission “is the first step toward a world where everyone can go and venture among the stars.”
“I know the money raised and the awareness of this mission will change lives …” said Arceneaux, who will serve as crew medicine. “And it means so much to me both as a former patient and now employee knowing that we will be able to help so many more children because of this mission.”
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