Female astronaut to be 1 of 4 on first SpaceX private flight

Hayley Arceneaux is set to be one of four people manning the first private SpaceX flight (SpaceX Inspiration4) to the Earth’s orbit. While there have been humans in Earth’s orbit before, this is the first to have only private citizens on-board. Arceneaux, 29, is a St. Jude’s child cancer survivor, a current physician assistant at St. Jude’s Hospital and now a private astronaut. Her other crewmate that has been selected is Jared Isaacman, 38. Depending on the age of their two other crewmates, Arceneaux has the possibility to be the youngest American in space. The third crewmate is to be picked by a raffle where SpaceX hopes to raise close to $200 million for St. Jude’s Hospital. Any person who donated to the hospital during the month of February was entered into the competition. The fourth will be chosen in a “Shark Tank” type of competition for entrepreneurs. Inspiration4’s launch date is currently Oct. 21, 2021, but that is subject to change depending on many variables.

When Arceneaux was 10 years old, she was diagnosed with osteosarcoma — a type of bone cancer. She had to undergo multiple rounds of chemotherapy at St. Jude’s to help treat the cancer. She also went through a prosthetic surgery to save her leg that replaced her knee and added a titanium rod beside her left femur. This surgery has limited her mobility to the point where she can barely run or jump, but that is not stopping her. In the past, her prosthetics would have prevented her from going to space if she had worked with NASA or other government agencies. Since the mission is controlled by a private company, they make their rules and are minimally controlled by the government. In an interview with NPR, Arceneaux commented, “I absolutely love that this mission is changing what an astronaut looks like. You know, until now, [you have] had to be physically perfect, and I [do not] fall into that category. A big portion of my femur all the way down to my tibia is metal.”

The main goal of the mission is to travel across more than 90% of Earth’s orbit. SpaceX hopes that this mission will start a new era of manned space exploration, especially with private citizens. The astronauts will be on-board the Dragon Spacecraft which can carry up to seven people and is capable of returning to Earth with over 350 pounds of cargo. Astronauts on board will be performing gravity experiments while in Earth’s atmosphere to expand current knowledge of space and its forces.

For more information, contact the author, Emma Beatty, at [email protected]