Child Cancer Survivor Will Be Youngest American in Space

Physician Hayley Arceneaux, 29, to orbit Earth in SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket later this year
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 22, 2021 9:04 AM CST
Child Cancer Survivor to Symbolize 'Hope' in SpaceX Launch
This photo shows Hayley Arceneaux at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, Tenn.   (Mike Brown/American Lebanese Syrian Associated Charities, St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, via AP)

Later this year, a big first in space travel is on the calendar: the first manned mission around Earth, courtesy of SpaceX, with not a single professional astronaut on board. The trip was made possible by billionaire Jared Isaacman, who the New York Times notes bought the Falcon 9 rocket launch from the company last month, but who didn't want only the rich to get a chance to be catapulted into orbit. That's why he offered two of the four seats to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, which is dedicated to researching and treating kids with cancer: one to the winner of a sweepstakes that's fundraising for the hospital, and the second to one of the hospital's front-line health care workers. On Monday, the latter was announced: Hayley Arceneaux, a physician assistant hired by St. Jude last year, and who beat cancer herself at age 10. At 29, Arceneaux is set to be the youngest American ever in space.

Per the Advocate, Arceneaux, from Baton Rouge, La., was diagnosed with bone cancer in 2002 and cured at the St. Jude site in Memphis, Tenn., where her left femur was replaced with a prosthetic designed to expand as she got bigger. That means she'll also be the first person with a prosthesis to head into space. Isaacman (representing "leadership," per the sweepstakes site) will join Arceneaux (a stand-in for "hope") on the trip, in addition to the sweepstakes winner and a still-to-be determined fourth person; the latter two will represent "generosity" and "prosperity." The crew will receive "commercial astronaut training." Of her journey, which will involve orbiting around Earth for three or four days before making splashdown in Florida waters, Arceneaux had one question about bragging rights. "I did ask, 'Am I going to get a passport stamp for going to space?'" she tells the Times. "But I don't think I'm going to. So I'm just going to draw a star and the moon in one of my passports." (More SpaceX stories.)

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