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29-Year-Old Cancer Survivor Chosen For First Civilian SpaceX Shuttle

A truly inspiring story!

Credit: WikimediaCommons

The mission will see 29-year-old cancer survivor, Hayley Arceneaux, join the first all civilian mission into outer space, which is planned to go up later this year, (hopefully.)

Arceneaux, from Memphis, Tennesse, who works as a physician assistant at St.Jude’s Children’s Research Centre, was selected to join the mission after 37-year-old billionaire, Jared Isaacman, purchased the private flight from fellow billionaire and SpaceX owner, Elon Musk. 

Sadly, when Hayley was just 10 years old, she was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a type of bone cancer that generally affects the legs and arms of the patient. Hayley, who dreamed of being an astronaut when she was a child, underwent chemotherapy and had surgery to replace part of her femur with an internal prosthesis. 

She had to learn to walk all over again with her new prosthetic, which took place over several months after finishing chemotherapy sessions. It comes as no surprise that this life-altering experience generated her passion for healthcare. She was treated at the same hospital where she works today, St Jude’s. 

Hayley recalls being ‘really sick from the chemotherapy sessions,’ telling People:  ‘It made me feel weak from my blood counts being low. Then I got some fevers that required more admission to the hospital. And, of course, I lost my hair.’

‘I remember just crying because it was such a mixture of relief, and then also I didn’t want to leave because I had become so comfortable at St. Jude, and I really felt like they were my family and I looked forward to going to St. Jude every day. And I still don’t want to leave. St. Jude is my whole world.’

Isaacman, who is CEO of the payment processing company Shift4Payments, heard her story and felt she was a perfect fit for the all civilian mission, known publicly as Inspiration4, which you can read more about here

On January 5th of this year, she recalls receiving a phone call enquirying whether she wanrted to join Isaacman ins space, and well, it’s not opportunity you turn down. Remembering the call, she explains ‘shaking’ as the phone call was ‘such a shock and so overwhelming, but in an exciting way.’

After having spent time with the 29 year old during the preparation for the mission, Isaacman confirmed that Hayley was ‘everything we want our team to represent.’

He told People: ‘She’s interested in the world around her, devoted to caring for others and hopeful for a better future for all of us. She already inspires me, and I’m certain she’ll inspire many others as they get to know her in the course of our mission.’

The two will be joined on the mission by a business owner who uses Shift4Payments, as well as one other person who is yet to be chosen by the company. Anyone who donates to St.Jude’s during the month of February will be entered into a random draw for a seat of their own the trip, which will last three to four days.

According to SpaceX, the crew will ‘receive commercial astronaut training by SpaceX on the Falcon 9 launch vehicle and Dragon spacecraft, orbital mechanics, operating in microgravity, zero gravity, and other forms of stress testing’ ahead of the mission.

Arceneaux, who has been named Chief Medical Officer for the flight, said:

I don’t know my exact schedule as far as training, like how much I’m going to have to be away this year, but St. Jude and my co-workers have been so supportive and it’s been worked out.

But I’m still working my job, and also getting to have this experience. What an incredible opportunity this is for St. Jude.

If all goes to plan, the mission is set to depart from the Kennedy Space Center’s historic launch complex 39A, before travelling ‘across a law orbit on a multi day journey that will contintually eclipse more than 90% of the earth’s population,’ accoring to SpaceX.

If you’d like to donate to St Jude’s, you can do so here.

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