A 29-year-old woman who survived cancer as a child was just selected to fly to space aboard SpaceX's rocket

A 29-year-old woman who survived cancer as a child was just selected to fly to space aboard SpaceX's rocket
The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifts off from Launch Complex 39-A at Kennedy Space Center. Joe Burbank/OrlandoJoe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel/Tribune News Service via Getty Images
  • 29-year-old childhood cancer survivor Hayley Arceneaux is set to board a SpaceX flight later this year.
  • Arceneaux will be joined by three others as part of the first-ever all-civilian crew to enter space.
  • Billionaire Jared Isaacman is chartering the flight and will select two more to join.

Hayley Arceneaux has always had limits. The 29-year-old can't ski; she can't skydive; she can't do anything to risk an uncontrolled fall because of a metal rod in her left leg that was put there during her bone cancer treatments as a child.

But now she has an opportunity to be limitless.

Arceneaux is the newest member of an all-civilian crew headed to space aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. In an interview with Insider, she said her orthopedic surgeon told her, "There's going to be no limits on you in space."
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St. Jude Research Hospital, where Acreneaux was treated as a child and is now a physician assistant, has partnered up with billionaire Jared Isaacman, who is chartering a SpaceX flight for later this year that will take off with the first-ever all-civilian crew, with himself included. As part of the mission, Isaacman said he wanted one medical officer on board, and St. Jude's chose Arceneaux.

She heard the news on January 5. A hospital spokesperson wanted to talk to her about a vague "opportunity." She nervously joined the call, unsure of what to expect. She was nervous at the vague description and nervously joined the call. The person told her about the mission, called Inspiration4, the fundraiser for St. Jude, and then asked if she wanted a seat in space.

"I remember I laughed and said, 'Yes, yes please,'" she said. Since agreeing to go to space, she's been to the SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, California, three times, where she saw the flight plans and drank coffee under an old SpaceX capsule.
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With Acreneaux's selection announced, the spacecraft has room for just two more civilians, both of whom will be announced in the coming weeks. One member will come from a raffle for St. Jude's, in which anyone can donate any amount to the childhood cancer research hospital and be entered into the drawing. Isaacman, who founded payments company Shift4Payments, hopes to raise $200 million through the raffle and donate $100 million out of his own pocket to the hospital. The fourth seat will be a Shift4Payments customer selected through a sweepstakes.

"Assembling a unique and diverse crew whose personal stories and values will inspire people everywhere is at the heart of the Inspiration4 mission," Isaacman said in a statement. SpaceX did not reply to Insider's request for comment. Rick Shadyac, head of the fundraising and awareness organization for St. Jude's, told Insider the funds from the raffle and donation will be used to continue researching cancer treatment and cures and providing care free-of-charge to kids and their families. He said the partnership with Isaacson and SpaceX "is another demonstration that St. Jude is yet again pushing the boundaries and making the seemingly impossible possible."
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Shadyac has known Arceneaux since she was a 10-year-old patient at the hospital, and watched her recover from cancer, become an intern at the hospital, and eventually a physician assistant. He said Arceneaux "epitomizes" what the hospital wants to accomplish with the mission.

Arceneaux will be the first person with a prosthetic body part as well as the youngest American to go to space, The New York Times reported. While on board, she said she wants to video chat with her cancer patients in the hopes of inspiring them.

"When you're going through cancer treatments, you're so focused on that day, what appointments you have that day, what pills you have to take that day, and it really can be difficult and overwhelming to look towards the future," she said.
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"I hope this mission not only gives cancer patients something to look forward to, but I hope they realize how attainable this is for them that they can go to space."

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