This coming October, four civilians are expected to launch in a SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft atop a Falcon 9 rocket. The mission will be commanded by 38-year-old Jared Isaacman, an accomplished pilot and the founder and CEO of Shift4Payments, a credit card processing company. Joining the entrepreneur in this groundbreaking mission will be three other civilians, the first of which was confirmed recently.
In an announcement on Monday, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital revealed that 29-year-old physician assistant and cancer survivor Hayley Arceneaux would be joining Isaacman as the crew’s medical officer. Provided that the mission goes through, Arceneaux would be the youngest person in history to go to space. She would also be the first person to launch with a prosthesis, a reminder of her previous battle against cancer.
Meet commercial astronaut Hayley Arceneaux. She is an amazing person & I know she will be an inspiration to people all over the 🌍. Not just those w/ dreams of going to 🚀, but to all people who need hope when encountering life challenges . Hayley, welcome to @inspiration4x pic.twitter.com/t02LFuU7mm
— Jared Isaacman (@rookisaacman) February 22, 2021
Arceneaux was 10 when she had surgery at St. Jude to replace her knee and get a titanium rod in her left thigh bone. While she still limps and suffers from occasional leg pain, SpaceX has cleared for flight. Speaking with The Associated Press, she remarked that her battle with cancer has really prepared her for the challenges of space travel.
“My battle with cancer really prepared me for space travel. It made me tough, and then also I think it really taught me to expect the unexpected and go along for the ride,” she said, adding that through the Inspiration4 mission, she is aiming to prove to young patients and other cancer survivors that “the sky is not even the limit anymore.”
“It’s going to mean so much to these kids to see a survivor in space,” Arceneaux noted.
Representing the mission pillar of Hope, #Inspiration4 has named its first crew member – a cancer survivor and physician assistant at @StJude. Generosity and Prosperity seats remain open through 2/28. Visit https://t.co/ECwhGyITJ2 for more. https://t.co/QTkPvgn3EV pic.twitter.com/S7wYViXTLg
— Inspiration4 (@inspiration4x) February 22, 2021
Inspiration4 was announced by Isaacman on February 1, together with a pledge to raise $200 million for St. Jude, half of which would be from his personal contribution. As the commander of the mission, the founder and CEO of Shift4Payments opted to offer one of the four Crew Dragon capsule seats to St. Jude. Rick Shadyac, president of St. Jude’s fundraising organization, noted that Arceneaux was selected from among “scores” of hospital and fundraising employees who had previously been patients and who could effectively represent the next generation.
As per the Inspiration4 mission’s website, the crew would be conducting experiments in space designed to expand humanity’s knowledge of the universe. Crew Dragon’s 365-lb cargo capacity would be allocated for both crew essentials and scientific equipment dedicated to microgravity researching experimentation. The mission aims to assign the maximum possible mass towards its research goals, which should provide access to space for inspiring projects that are “otherwise unable to overcome the high barriers of traditional space-based research.” The crew will likely be spending about 2-4 days in Earth’s orbit.
With two of Inspiration4’s crew members now determined, the hunt is ongoing for the occupants of Crew Dragon’s two remaining seats. Isaacman, for his part, noted that he plans to reveal the last two crew members of the civilian space mission sometime in March. Liftoff is expected around October at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center.
Watch Hayley Arceneaux’s interview with NBC NEWS TODAY in the video below.
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