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Meet Hayley Arceneaux, The Cancer Survivor Set To Become The Youngest American In Space

Photo: YouTube
Hayley Arceneaux

On February 22, it was revealed that Hayley Arceneaux would be joining the crew of the Inspiration4 on the world’s first all-civilian space mission.

The Inspiration4 crew will travel in a SpaceX capsule paid for by 38-year-old billionaire Jared Isaacman, who will serve as flight commander for the voyage. 

The vessel is planned to depart late this year from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida and circle the earth in a low orbit before touching down again in a water landing off the east coast of the US.

The mission aims to raise money and awareness for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, and Hayley is the first crew member to be selected. There are two remaining spots on the voyage. One will go to a St. Jude donor, and one to the winner of a contest organized by Isaacson’s software company, Shift4 Payments. Isaacson expects to announce the winners in March.

Who is Hayley Arceneaux? 

Read on for everything to know about Arceneaux.

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Hayley will be the youngest American ever to reach outer space.

At the age of 29, she will beat the previous record set by Sally Ride, who was 32 when she became the first American woman in space in 1983.

She’s a cancer survivor.

Hayley was diagnosed with bone cancer at the age of 10 and received life-saving treatment at St. Jude. She says that the experience had a profound impact on her character, and even helped prepare her for the space mission.

“It really taught me how to expect the unexpected and to go with it and keep a positive attitude,” the survivor told the Today Show.

Arceneaux will also be the first person with a prosthetic body part to go into space, as some of her leg bones were replaced by titanium implants during treatment. She is excited about what this means for others with medical conditions and disabilities, who might finally be able to reach their cosmic aspirations.

“Before this mission, you really had to be physically perfect” to go into space, Hayley said. 

“This mission is changing things.”

She’s a healthcare worker.

Hayley was hired by St. Jude last spring as a physician’s assistant, working with leukemia and lymphoma patients.

She has wanted to work at the hospital since she herself was a patient.

Hayley was granted the Louisiana Young Heroes award when she was in fifth grade in response to her volunteer efforts at St. Jude, and her interview shows just how lasting her career aspirations are.

“When I grow up I wanna be a nurse at St. Jude,” eleven-year-old Hayley told the camera with conviction. “And I wanna be a mentor to patients, like when they come in, I’ll say, ‘I had that when I was little and I’m doing good!’”

Nearly two decades later, she was thrilled to get the job.

“All I’ve ever wanted is to work at St. Jude,” Hayley wrote on Instagram. “This is my ultimate life dream come true.”

She will also serve as the medical officer for Inspiration4.

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She’s a thrill-seeker.

Hayley enjoys roller coasters, and her other exciting escapades have included bungee jumping and glacier hiking.

She loves to travel and has visited an abundance of far-off destinations

Hayley’s international travels span five continents, and countries from Colombia to New Zealand. She studied abroad in Spain and took part in two mission trips to South America. She has also visited numerous parks and cities across the US.

It is only logical that Hayley’s travels would eventually exceed the earth-bound.

She’s close with her family.

Hayley’s mother was the first person she contacted after receiving her invitation to join Inspiration4, and Colleen Arceneaux was encouraging and supportive.

“I wasn’t about to say anything to influence her not to do what she wanted to do,” Colleen said.

Hayley’s brother and sister-in-law are aerospace engineers, and she says they have been able to teach her a lot about the upcoming expedition.

Her father died of kidney cancer in 2018, but according to Colleen, he “loved space” and “would’ve been so excited” for his daughter’s journey.

Hayley also has a dog named Scarlett, a three-year-old Aussiedoodle, who she has referred to as her “sidekick.”

She has dreamed of visiting outer space since she was a child.

When Hayley was nine years old, her family visited the NASA space complex in Houston, Texas. Hayley was entranced.

“I got to see where the astronauts trained and of course wanted to be an astronaut after that — who doesn’t?” she said of the experience years later.

When she received her cancer diagnosis shortly afterward, Hayley’s yearnings for space travel were swiftly dissolved by the all-consuming illness. After her leg surgery, she didn’t think she would be allowed into space due to the strict medical requirements in place at the time. 

But now, Hayley is finally able to explore the final frontier.

She can’t wait for the trip.

When Arceneaux was first offered the opportunity to orbit the earth, she knew “immediately” what she wanted to do.

“Yes, yes,” the young woman responded. “Please send me to space.”

She “could not be more excited” for the expedition.

Hayley wants her experience to give pediatric cancer patients a chance to imagine a future for themselves, at a time when she knows firsthand how difficult it can be to think past the next test or treatment.

“I really hope to show them that the sky’s not even the limit,” Hayley said.

“That they can do anything.”

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Allie McGlone is a writer who covers a variety of topics for YourTango, including pop culture and entertainment.