A 29-year-old cancer survivor, now a physician’s assistant at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, will fly aboard a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule later this year for afor Memphis Medical Center, the hospital announced Monday.
Hayley Arceneaux, 29, who will be the youngest American to fly into space, will join three other passengers aboard a commercial flight chartered by billionaire Jared Isaacman, who arranged to buy the launch from SpaceX. The mission is known as Inspiration4.
“It’s an incredible honor to join the Inspiration4 crew,” said Arceneaux. “This seat represents the hope that St. Jude has given me and continues to give to families around the world who, like me, find hope through the gates of St. Jude.”
A seasoned private pilot with extensive jet experience, Isaacman will be the mission commander. Founder and CEO of Shift4 Payments, he gives two Crew Dragon seats in St. Jude. One seat goes to Arceneaux and the other to the winner of a competition to raise funds for the famous research center, specializing in the free treatment of children with cancer and other diseases.
The fourth seat will go to an entrepreneur using Shift4 Payments to build an online store using the company’s credit card terminals and software.
Unlike NASA-chartered Crew Dragon flights and another Houston-based Axiom Space-booked trade mission, the Isaacman flight will not visit the International Space Station. Instead, the four crew members, none of them astronauts, will take off on top of a Falcon 9 rocket from the Kennedy Space Center, fly around Earth for a few days, and return to a splashdown in the ‘Atlantic Ocean.
A launch date has not yet been set, but the flight is scheduled for the end of this year.
Arceneaux was a bone cancer patient in St. Jude when she was 10 years old and her treatment included implanting metal rods into the bones of her left leg. While this would likely prevent it from flying on a NASA mission, this is not an obstacle for purely commercial flight.
“When I was just 10 years old, St. Jude gave me the opportunity to grow up,” she says. “Now I am fulfilling my dream of working at the research hospital and traveling the world. It’s amazing to be a part of this mission which not only raises essential funds for the vital work of St. Jude, but also introduces new supporters to the mission and showing cancer survivors that anything is possible. ”
In 2003, reported The New York Times, Arceneaux said, “When I grow up I want to be a nurse in St. Jude. I want to be a mentor for the patients.
Last year, The Times reported, she was hired by St. Jude, working with children with leukemia and lymphoma. She said to a recent patient, “I also lost my hair. You can ask me anything. I’m a former patient. I’ll tell you the truth, whatever you want to know.” And he said, “Do you really want to tell me the truth? And I said yes. “
Arceneaux and Isaacman have been to SpaceX’s headquarters in Hawthorn, California three times to make the first preparations for their flight.
“She has an adventurous spirit,” Isaacman said. “And now she can travel to the stars, which is pretty cool.”
Isaacman has pledged to donate $ 100 million to St. Jude. In a statement, he said his goal was to bring together a team “whose personal stories and values will inspire people everywhere.”
“As I spent time with Hayley early in the preparation for the mission, she is everything we want our team to represent, she cares about the world around her, is dedicated to taking care of others. and hope for a better future for all of us. She inspires me already, and I am sure she will inspire many more as they come to know her in the course of our mission. ”