Feb 22, 2021 - Science

Childhood cancer survivor named 2nd crew member for all-civilian mission to space

A white woman stands in front of a SpaceX rocket with her hand on her hip, smiling.

Hayley Arceneaux in front of a SpaceX rocket. Photo: Inspiration4

St. Jude physician assistant and childhood cancer survivor Hayley Arceneaux has been selected as the second crew member for an all-civilian mission to space expected to launch later this year.

Why it matters: The mission is a marker of a new age of commercial spaceflight, one in which private citizens and companies are able to go to space without government backing.

Driving the news: The mission — called Inspiration4 — is the brainchild of businessman Jared Isaacman, who has chartered a SpaceX Crew Dragon for the flight. Isaacman, Arceneaux and two other yet-to-be-chosen crew members will be in orbit for multiple days.

  • Inspiration4 is set up, in part, as a fundraiser for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, which treated Arceneaux when she was diagnosed with bone cancer at 10 years old.
  • "I really never thought I'd be going to space," Arceneaux told Axios. "And then after this was presented to me, I said, 'It's like a dream I didn't even know I had.' But like, this dream had come true."
  • The other two crew members for the mission will be selected at the end of February. One will be the winner of a raffle raising money for St. Jude and the other will be an entrepreneur selected by a panel of judges as part of a contest.

The big picture: Arceneaux says she hopes her trip to space will help inspire others, including her patients who she plans to speak to from orbit.

  • "I think it's going to change all of us, and I hope to just be able to share that in any way possible," Arceneaux said.

What's next: Arceneaux and Isaacman will continue to train for and plan their mission with SpaceX as they await the selection of their fellow crew members.

  • So far, the raffle has raised more than $9 million for St. Jude, along with Isaacman's donation of $100 million.
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