Another astronaut has been named in the first SpaceX private spaceflight. The astronaut is a 29-year-old physician assistant named Hayley Arceneaux, who is a bone cancer survivor. Arceneaux was announced as a passenger on the spaceflight by Saint Jude Children’s Research Hospital on Monday. Arceneaux was a former patient of the hospital hired to work there last spring.
She will head into space on a flight paid for by billionaire entrepreneur Jared Isaacman and to other yet-to-be chosen contest winners. The spaceflight is being used as a charitable fundraiser. As a bone cancer survivor, Arceneaux will be the first astronaut to launch with a prosthetic device. At the age of 10, Arceneaux had surgery at Saint Jude, replacing her knee and having a titanium rod placed into her left thigh bone.
While Arceneaux suffers occasional leg pain and walks with a limp, she has been cleared by SpaceX for flight and will serve as the crew’s medical officer. She will become the youngest American ever put into space, beating former NASA record holder Sally Ride by over two years. Arceneaux says that her battle with cancer prepared her for space travel by making her tough and teaching her to expect the unexpected.
She says she wants to show her young patients and other cancer survivors that “the sky is not even the limit anymore.” Isaacman announced the mission on February 1 with a pledge to raise $200 million for Saint Jude, half of that he contributed himself. He is the self-appointed commander of the mission and offered one of the four seats on the flight to St. Jude.
St. Jude chose Arceneaux from what officials called “scores” of hospital and fundraising employees who had once been patients at the hospital. When she was chosen, Arceneaux said the call came out of the blue in early January, asking if she would represent the hospital in space. She said yes right away, with the caveat of asking to run it by her family first.