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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.

Go deeper

FBI, Homeland Security warn of increasing threat to Capitol

Photo: Eric Baradat/AFP via Getty Images

The FBI and Department of Homeland Security predict violent domestic extremists attacks will increase in 2021, according to a report reviewed by Axios.

Driving the news: The joint report says an unidentified group of extremists discussed plans to take control of the Capitol and "remove Democratic lawmakers" on or about March 4. The House canceled its plans for Thursday votes as word of the possible threats spread.

26 mins ago - World

Pope Francis set to make first papal visit to Iraq amid possible turmoil

Data: Vatican News; Map: Danielle Alberti/Axios

Pope Francis is forging ahead with the first papal trip to Iraq despite new coronavirus outbreaks and fears of instability.

The big picture: The March 5–8 visit is intended to reassure Christians in Iraq who were violently persecuted under the Islamic State. Francis also hopes to further ties with Shiite Muslims, AP notes.

"Neanderthal thinking": Biden slams states lifting mask mandates

States that are relaxing coronavirus restrictions are making "a big mistake," President Biden told reporters on Wednesday, adding: "The last thing we need is Neanderthal thinking."

Driving the news: Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) said Wednesday he will end all coronavirus restrictions via executive order, although some businesses are continuing to ask patrons to wear face masks. Mississippi is lifting its mask mandate for all counties Wednesday, per Gov. Tate Reeves (R).