St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital announced Monday that former bone cancer patient and survivor Hayley Arceneaux will join billionaire Jared Isaacman on the first fully civilian SpaceX flight later this year. At 29, Arceneaux will become the youngest American, as well as the first person with a prosthetic body part, to go into space.
“My battle with cancer really prepared me for space travel,” Arceneaux, who now works as a medical assistant at St. Jude, told The Associated Press. “It made me hard, and I also think it really taught me to expect the unexpected and move on.”
Growing up in Louisiana, Arceneaux first dreamed of becoming an astronaut when his family traveled to NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston when he was 9 years old. Shortly after that visit, she received life-changing news when she was diagnosed with bone cancer at age 10. As part of his treatment, Arceneaux had to undergo surgery at St. Jude’s to replace his knee and get a metal rod in his left femur.
“He would tell me over and over when I was going through treatment that God had a plan,” he said in a recent interview on St. Jude. Now, almost 20 years later, Arceneaux’s next space trip seems like a full-circle moment. “I am overwhelmingly grateful for His faithfulness and my wild ride.”
The 29-year-old was chosen as one of four people to join Isaacman, pilot and founder of payment processing company Shift4 Payments, on his charity mission titled Inspiration4. Isaacman announced the mission earlier this year, with a commitment to raise $ 200 million for St. Jude to help fight childhood cancer. The 38-year-old businessman, who has a net worth of $ 2.3 billion, according to Forbes, has already committed $ 100 million of his own money to the cause.
In a tweet Monday, Isaacman said he was excited for Arceneaux to join him in space and knows he will be an “inspiration to people around the world.”
In addition to Arceneaux, the other seats in Isaacman’s mission will be filled by a selected winner of a sweepstakes contest 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 mission’s liftoff is scheduled for October at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, and the trip will last two to four days, AP reports. Isaacman, who bought the SpaceX rocket launch from Elon Musk 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 that the money raised and the awareness generated from this mission will change lives …” said Arceneaux, who will serve as the crew’s medical officer. “And it means a lot to me, as a former patient and now as an employee, to know that we are going to be able to help many more children thanks to this mission.”
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