Hayley Arcenaux, 29, is set to accomplish numerous firsts. Including, quite possibly, the first Cajun in space.

By Meghan Overdeep
February 23, 2021
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Hayley Arcenaux has already lived an extraordinary life. The Baton Rouge, Louisiana, native was diagnosed with osteosarcoma in her leg at only 10 years old. After over a year of chemotherapy and multiple surgeries at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, she not only survived cancer, but was able to keep her leg.

Today, Arcenaux is 29 years old and working as a physician's assistant in the hospital that saved her life. In many ways, her story has just begun.

This week it was announced that Arceneaux has been chosen to be part of the crew of Inspiration4, the world's first all-civilian mission to space flight, due to launch later this year. She will serve as the crew's medical officer and occupy the mission seat representing "hope."

When that day comes, Arceneaux will be accomplishing numerous space-travel firsts: the first American civilian woman in space, the youngest American in space, the first person with an artificial joint in space, the first cancer survivor in space and, quite possibly, the first Cajun.

"What an incredible honor this is for me to represent cancer survivors in this way," she told The Advocate. "Until now, astronauts have been physically perfect. This mission is changing the mindset of what an astronaut has to look like. Not only is it going to mean so much to the kids to know that all of the people that are donating are helping them, but also being able to see a survivor in space."

Credit: St. Jude Children's Research Hospital

Arceneaux joins Inspiration4 mission commander Jared Isaacman, founder and CEO of Shift4 Payments. Isaacman, an accomplished pilot, purchased the flight from SpaceX. He donated two of the four seats on Inspiration4 to St. Jude, including the seat filled by Arceneaux.

The mission name Inspiration4 recognizes the four-person crew's purpose: to send a humanitarian message of possibility and inspire support for St. Jude.  

"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 news release. "As I've spent time with Hayley in the earliest days of mission prep, she's everything we want our team to represent—she's interested in the world around her, devoted to caring for others and hopeful for a better future for all of us. She already inspires me, and I'm certain she'll inspire many others as they get to know her in the course of our mission."

Credit: St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital

Arceneaux told the AP that she can't wait to talk to her patients about going to space as a cancer survivor. She seeks to show t that they "don't have to limit themselves."

"I really hope to show them that the sky's not even the limit, that they can do anything," she said.

Liftoff, which is currently targeted for around October, will take place at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The capsule is set to orbit Earth for two to four days.

The remaining two seats on Inspiration4, representing "generosity" and "prosperity," are available to the general public through February 28. Find out more at Inspiration4.com.

Go Hayley, go!