A 29-year-old bone cancer survivor is set to become the youngest American in space when she joins SpaceX’s first all-civilian flight.
Hayley Arceneaux – who beat cancer as a child – will be one of four crew members of Inspiration 4, an unprecedented space flight made up entirely of members of the public.
She will be joined by two winners of the yet to be chosen competition and billionaire tech entrepreneur Jared Isaacman, who is funding the mission.
Physician Assistant Ms Arceneaux was chosen from among ‘dozens’ of employees at St Jude’s Research Hospital as part of Mr Isaacman’s plans to raise $ 200million (£ 142million ) for the hospital.
When she takes off this fall, the 29-year-old will be the first to get started with a prosthesis.
The young American underwent surgery at the age of 10 to replace her knee and obtain a titanium rod in the left thigh bone.
She still drinks and occasionally suffers from leg pain, but has been cleared for the flight and will serve as the crew’s chief medical officer.
Ms Arceneaux says her battle with cancer has prepared her for space travel and she hopes her mission will show other cancer survivors that “the sky is not even the limit anymore”.
“It’s going to mean so much to these kids to see a survivor in space,” she says.
She described how she received the call “out of the blue” when she was at her home in Memphis, Tennessee, last month.
His immediate response was “Yes! Yes! Please!” but first she wanted him to pass in front of his mother.
She also contacted her brother and sister-in-law, both aerospace engineers, and “reassured me about the safety of space travel.”
A lifelong fan of space, Ms Arceneaux said her loved ones wouldn’t be surprised – and Mr Isaacman thinks she’s a perfect fit.
“It’s not just about motivating people to someday be astronauts, which is definitely cool,” he said. “It is also meant to be an inspiring message of what we can accomplish here on Earth.”
The last two crew members are expected to be revealed in March ahead of the targeted takeoff from Kennedy Space Center in October.