Hayley Arceneaux, 29, was hoping this would be the year she completed her goal of visiting all seven continents before turning 30.
However, she won’t have time to do that.
She is going into space.
Ms. Arceneaux, assistant physician at St. Children’s Research Hospital Jude in Memphis, will be one of four on board a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket taking off from Florida. Scheduled to launch later this year, this is the first mission to be orbited by the crew on Earth without anyone on board being a professional astronaut.
“I asked,” Can I get my passport stamped to go to space? “Said Ms. Arceneaux. “. “But I don’t think I will. So I’ll just draw a star and a moon in one of my passports. “
The adventure is led by Jared Isaacman, a 38-year-old billionaire who announced in January that he purchased a rocket launched from SpaceX, the space company founded by Elon Musk. Mr. Isaacman said at the time that he wanted mission more than just a joke for the super-rich, and that he handed over two of the four available seats to St. John’s. Jude.
One of them will come up with a random winner in a sweepstakes contest to raise funds for hospitals, which provide free treatment to children and the development of cancer treatments in children and other another disease.
The remaining chair will be filled by a frontline health care worker in St. Isaacman, said Mr. Isaacman. Jude, a person who represents hope.
On Monday, St. Jude and Mr. Isaacman officials revealed that Ms. Arceneaux was the person they had chosen.
Ms. Arceneaux could become the youngest American ever to be in orbit. She will also be the first to have a prosthesis in space. She is a patient at St. John’s. Jude almost 20 years ago, and during the treatment for bone cancer, metal rods replaced parts of the bone in her left leg.
Previously, that could have kept her on the ground, unable to meet NASA’s strict astronaut medical standards. But the advent of privately funded space travel opened up the final frontier for some previously excluded.
Dr. Michael D. Neel, the orthopedic surgeon who fitted Ms. Arceneaux’s prosthetic leg, said that although having a prosthetic leg meant she could not play contact sports on Earth, they should not Restrict her on this SpaceX trip.
“It shows us that the sky is not the limit,” said Dr. Neel. “That is the sky and beyond. I think that’s the real point of all of this, that she has very little restriction in what you can do. Unless you are going to play ball up there ”.
Ms. Arceneaux said she hopes to inspire patients at St. Jude.
“They should be able to see a cancer survivor in space, especially someone who has gone through the same things they have encountered,” she said. “It will help them visualize their future.”
Richard C. Shadyac Jr., president of ALSAC, fundraiser for St. Mary’s St. Jude, of Ms. Arceneaux, “If someone is a symbol of the concept of hope, it is Hayley.”
Ms. Arceneaux herself did not discover she would have a seat on the rocket until early January. Officials at the hospital vaguely told her there was a chance they wanted to talk to her. She said she thought “maybe it would be an advertisement or maybe a speech somewhere.”
Instead, it’s an opportunity to become an astronaut.
“I even laughed,” said Ms. Arceneaux. “I said, ‘What? It’s correct. Yes, please, that would be great ”. Then she added, “Let me talk to my mother.”
Her mother did not object.
Ms. Arceneaux entered the St. Jude for the first time in 2002. She was 10 years earlier, she won a black belt in taekwondo, but she complained of pain in her legs. Her mother saw a protruding bump on her left knee. Pediatrician in the small town of St. Francisville, La., Where they live, not far from Baton Rouge, told them it looked like a cancer tumor.
“We all fell apart,” said Ms. Arceneaux. “I remember being scared because at the age of 10, everyone I knew who had cancer died.”
At St. Jude, the doctors have provided the good news that the cancer has not spread to other parts of her body. Ms. Arceneaux underwent chemotherapy, prosthetic leg surgery and prolonged physical therapy.
Even as a young man, bald due to chemotherapy, Ms. Arceneaux still helps at the fundraising funds for St. Peter. Jude. The following year, Louisiana Public Broadcasting honored her with one of the Young Hero Awards.
“When I grow up, I want to become a nurse at St. Jude, ”she said in a video shown at the 2003 ceremony.“ I want to be a counselor to the patient. When they come, I’ll say, ‘I had that when I was a kid, and I’m doing well.’
Last year, Mrs. Arceneaux got St. Jude hired. She works with children with leukemia and lymphoma, such as a teen boy she talked to recently.
“I told him that I lost my hair, too,” said Ms. Arceneaux. “I told him: ‘You can ask me anything. I am an old patient. I will tell you the truth, whatever you want to know. And he said, ‘Will you really tell me the truth?’ And I said yes ”.
His hot question: “Are you a space man?”
Mrs. Arceneaux had to dodge. “I said, ‘Well, we’ll see who gets announced. “She speaks. “But I think he knows because then he and his dad said ‘Yeah! “And is appreciated. “
Ms. Arceneaux and Mr. Isaacman three times went to SpaceX headquarters in California to meet with engineers and begin planning the trip. Unlike the missions SpaceX flies to NASA, this one will not reach the International Space Station but will instead orbit the Earth for three or four days before plunging off the coast of Florida.
“She has an adventurous spirit,” Mr. Isaacman said of Miss Arceneaux. “And now that she’s traveling to the stars, that’s great.”
They are still a few weeks away from knowing who their partner will be.
Lucky draw at St. Jude, publicity in a TV commercial that was broadcast during the Super Bowl two weeks ago, will run to the end of the month. So far, it has raised about $ 9.5 million. That doesn’t seem too far off from the $ 100 million that Mr. Isaacman pledged to St. Jude, or overall goal is 200 million dollars. However, Mr. Isaacman and Mr. Shadyac said that the fundraising effort will go beyond the sweepstakes and they are satisfied with the progress.
“This is a campaign that will last until launch,” said Mr. Shadyac.
The sweepstakes scheme is structured in a way that effectively limits the size of donations. One entry is free. A minimum contribution of $ 10 will buy 100 entries, and for every dollar raised, you buy 10 more entries, up to $ 1,000 for 10,000 entries.
There are a few more expensive options that are now sold out. For example, Mr. Isaacman will give a donor a donation of $ 100,000 to purchase a Russian-made MiG-29 jet fighter that he owns. The sponsor will also receive a trip to see the launch at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. But that sponsor still had only 10,000 entries in the sweepstakes, the same as the one who donated $ 1,000.
This is a deliberate option, Mr. Isaacman said, to prevent a wealthy person from trying to win the grand prize of space travel by purchasing millions of photos.
“Will it represent all the people on Earth and not just wealthy whites?” Mr. Isaacman said.
The fourth SpaceX seat will go to the winner of a contest sponsored by Mr. Isaacman’s company, Shift4, which sells credit card processing terminals and point of sale systems to restaurants and businesses. other. A contest similar to “Shark Tank” calls on entrepreneurs to design an online store using Shift4 software and then post a video on Twitter describing their business.
As of last week, less than 100 people submitted completed items. “It means if you opened a Shift4 store and walked into it, you got pretty great odds,” said Mr. Isaacman.