Jared Isaacman selected Hayley Arceneaux for trip to orbit in SpaceX capsule

She Beat Cancer at 10. She's now set to be Space's youngest American.

St. Jude Hospital and Jared Isaacman, a billionaire entrepreneur, picked Hayley Arceneaux for a trip to orbit in a SpaceX spacecraft.

Hayley Arceneaux, 29, had hoped this would be the year before she turned 30 to fulfill her dream of visiting all seven continents.

However, she would not have time to do so.

She goes to space.

Ms. Arceneaux, an assistant physician at the St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, will be one of four people taking off from Florida on a SpaceX Falcon 9 missile. The first crewed spacecraft to orbit Earth, of which no one on board is a trained astronaut, is scheduled to be launched late this year.

I asked, "Am I going to get a passport stamp to go to space?" ', said Ms. Arceneaux. "But I don't think I will. So I'm just going to draw a star and a moon from one of my passports.

Jared Isaacman, a 38-year-old billionaire who revealed in January that he had purchased a launch rocket from SpaceX, a space company started by Elon Musk, is spearheading this adventure. At the time, Mr. Isaacman said that he wanted the project to be more than a search for the superwealthy and that he had given St. Jude two of the four seats available.

In a sweepstakes draw, one of them will go to a random winner to raise money for the hospital, which treats kids without charge and discovers treatments for childhood cancers and other illnesses.

A frontline health care worker at St. Jude will occupy the other position, Mr. Isaacman said, someone who symbolizes hope.

The first person with a prosthetic body part to travel to space would be Hayley Arceneaux, a cancer survivor.
The first person with a prosthetic body part to travel to space would be Hayley Arceneaux, a cancer survivor.

St. Jude officials and Mr. Isaacman announced on Monday that Ms. Arceneaux was the person they had selected.

Ms. Arceneaux was able to become the youngest American ever to go into orbit. She is also going to be the first person to go to space with a prosthetic body part. About 20 years ago, she was a patient at St. Jude's, and as part of her bone cancer treatment, metal rods replaced parts of the bones in her left leg.

That would have held her firmly on the ground in the past, unable to fulfill NASA's strict astronaut medical requirements. The emergence of privately funded space travel, however, has opened the final frontier to certain people who have been excluded before.

Dr. Michael D. Neel, the orthopedic surgeon who fitted Ms. Arceneaux’s prosthesis, says that while having artificial leg bones means that she can’t play contact sports on Earth, they do not restrict her on this SpaceX trek.

Dr. Neel said, "It shows us that the sky is not the limit." It's heaven and beyond. I assume that's the real point of all this, that as far as what you can do, she has very few limits. Unless you go up there to play football.

Ms. Arceneaux said she wanted to give patients at St. Jude inspiration.

"They will be able to see in space a cancer survivor, especially one who has been through the same thing they have," she said. "It will assist them to visualize their future."

"The president of ALSAC, the St. Jude fund-raising organization, Richard C. Shadyac Jr., said of Ms. Arceneaux, "If anyone was emblematic of the notion of hope, it was Hayley.

Ms. Arceneaux herself did not find out until early January that she would have a seat on the rocket. Hospital officials had vaguely informed her that there was an opportunity that they needed to talk about with her. She said she had thought, "Maybe it would be a commercial or maybe somewhere to give a speech."

Doctors told Ms. Arceneaux in 2002, when she was 10, that she had bone cancer.
Doctors told Ms. Arceneaux in 2002, when she was 10, that she had bone cancer.

It was, instead, a chance to be an astronaut.

"I even laughed a little," said Ms. Arceneaux. I was like, "Anyway, what?" Yeah. Yes. Yeah, that would be great, please." She then added, "Let me talk to my mom.

Her mom wasn't objecting.

The first time Ms. Arceneaux stepped into St. Jude was in 2002. She was eleven. She had received her black belt in taekwondo not long ago, but she was complaining of pain in her knee. Her mother saw a lump protruding over the left knee. The pediatrician advised them that it looked like a cancerous tumor in the tiny town of St. Francisville, La., where they were living, not far from Baton Rouge.

"All of us fell apart," said Ms. Arceneaux. "I just remember being so scared because, at the age of 10, everyone I knew had died from cancer."

Physicians gave the good news at St. Jude that the cancer had not spread to other areas of her body. Ms. Arceneaux underwent chemotherapy, a procedure for the installation of the prothetic leg bones, and lengthy physical therapy sessions.

Even at that young age, bald from chemotherapy, Ms. Arceneaux was helping at fund-raisers for St. Jude. The next year, Louisiana Public Broadcasting honored her with one of its Young Heroes awards.

"I want to be a nurse at St. Jude when I grow up," she said in a video shown at the 2003 ceremony. "I want to be a patient mentor. I'll say when they come in, 'I had it when I was young, and I'm doing well.'

Ms. Arceneaux was recruited by St. Jude last year. She deals with children with leukemia and lymphoma, such as a teenage boy she spoke with recently.

'I shared with him that I lost my hair as well,' said Ms. Arceneaux. "I told him, 'There's something you should ask me. I am a former patient there. Whatever you want to know, I'll tell you the truth.' And he said,' Will you really tell me the truth? 'And I said yes to it.'

"His burning question: "Are you the one who's going into space? ”

Ms. Arceneaux was obliged to dodge. She said, "I said, 'Well, we'll see who gets announced.'" But I believe he understood because he and his dad were like, "Yeah!" back then. "And Five-High."

Ms. Arceneaux and Mr. Isaacman visited California's SpaceX headquarters three times to consult with engineers and to begin preparing the trip. This one will not go to the International Space Station, unlike the missions that SpaceX flies for NASA, but will circle Earth for three or four days before splashing off the coast of Florida.

Mr. Isaacman said of Ms. Arceneaux, "She has an adventurous spirit." "And now she's going to be able to travel to the stars, which is quite cool."

It's only going to be a couple more weeks before they decide who their companions are going to be.

The St. Jude sweepstakes, promoted in a TV advertisement that was broadcast two weeks ago during the Super Bowl, will run through the end of the month. It has raised nearly $9.5 million so far. That seems to fall well short of the $100 million Mr. Isaacman has himself pledged to St. Jude, or the total target of $200 million. But Mr. Isaacman and Mr. Shadyac said they would go beyond the sweepstakes and that they were pleased with the progress of the fund-raising effort.

During one of three trips she made to SpaceX's headquarters in California, Mrs. Arceneaux prepared for the journey to space.
During one of three trips she made to SpaceX's headquarters in California, Mrs. Arceneaux prepared for the journey to space.

This is going to be a promotion," Mr. Shadyac said, "that will stretch all the way until the launch.

The sweepstakes are organized such that the size of donations is effectively limited. One entry is free. 100 entries are bought with a minimum donation of $10, and each additional dollar donated buys 10 more entries, up to $1,000 for 10,000 entries.

Some pricier options were available, which are now sold out. For example, Mr. Isaacman would give a donor who donated $100,000 a ride in the Russian-built MiG-29 jet fighter that he owns. The donor is also going to take a trip to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida to see the launch. But there are still just 10,000 entries in the sweepstakes for that donor, the same as someone who donated $1,000.

Mr. Isaacman said this was a calculated decision to discourage a rich individual from attempting to purchase millions of entries to snap up the grand prize of a trip to space.

Are all the people on Earth going to be portrayed, and not just rich white guys? "said Mr. Isaacman.

The fourth seat for SpaceX will be at the winner of a contest sponsored by Mr. Isaacman's company, Shift4, which sells restaurants and other businesses with credit card processing terminals and point-of-sale systems. The "Shark Tank"-like rivalry allows entrepreneurs to design an online store using the software of Shift4 and then post a video explaining their company on Twitter.

Less than 100 individuals had submitted full entries as of last week. "It means you've got pretty amazing odds if you've made a Shift4 shop and entered it," Mr. Isaacman said.

Tags