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Cancer Survivor Looks Forward to Joining Private Space Flight

Hayley Arceneaux, a former cancer patient, will become the youngest American in space. She will travel with businessman Jared Isaacman, who is using the SpaceX flight he bought to raise money for charity.
Cancer Survivor Looks Forward to Joining Private Space Flight
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After beating bone cancer, Hayley Arceneaux thinks rocketing into orbit on SpaceX’s first private flight should be no problem at all.

St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital announced the 29-year-old doctor's assistant will rocket into space later this year.

Arceneaux — a former patient at St. Jude — will become the youngest American in space, beating NASA record-holder Sally Ride by over two years.

She will travel with businessman Jared Isaacman, who is using the spaceflight he bought to raise money for charity. Two other yet-to-be-chosen space flyers will join them.

Arceneaux will be the first person to launch with a prosthesis - an artificial device that replaces a missing or injured part of the body.

When she was 10, Arceneaux had an operation at St. Jude to replace her knee and a piece of metal was put in her left leg. She still limps and has occasional leg pain. Limp is a term that means to walk slowly because of an injury.

Arceneaux has been cleared to fly by SpaceX and will serve as the crew’s medical officer.

“My battle with cancer really prepared me for space travel,” she recently told The Associated Press. “It made me tough, and then also I think it really taught me to expect the unexpected and go along for the ride.”

Arceneaux wants to show her young patients and other cancer survivors that “the sky is not even the limit anymore.”

“It’s going to mean so much to these kids to see a survivor in space” she said.

Isaacman announced his space flight February 1, promising to raise $200 million for St. Jude. He will provide half of the amount himself. As the flight’s self-appointed commander, he offered one of the four seats aboard SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft to St. Jude.

The hospital chose Arceneaux from among its many workers who had once been patients. The idea was that one of them could represent the new generation, noted Rick Shadyac, president of St. Jude’s financing organization.

Arceneaux was at home in Memphis, Tennessee, when she got a surprising call in January. She was asked if she would represent St. Jude in space.

A lifelong space fan who loves adventures, Arceneaux has traveled widely and loves roller coasters.

Isaacman, who flies fighter airplanes for fun, considers her a perfect fit.

“It’s not all supposed to be about getting people excited to be astronauts someday, which is certainly cool,” Isaacman, 38, said last week. “It’s also supposed to be about an inspiring message of what we can accomplish here on Earth.”

Isaacman has two more people to choose, and he plans to announce them in March.

One will be a contest winner who donates to St. Jude. So far, more than $9 million has been raised for the hospital, Shadyac said. The other seat will go to a business owner who uses Isaacman’s credit card-processing company.

The launch is planned for this fall at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, with the spacecraft orbiting Earth for two to four days.

I’m John Russell.

Marcia Dunn reported on this story for the Associated Press. John Russell adapted it for Learning English. Bryan Lynn was the editor.


Words in This Story

charity – n. an official organization that gives money, food or help to people in need

artificial – adj. not natural, but made by people

adventure – n. an exciting and sometimes dangerous experience

roller coaster – n. a ride at an amusement park which is like a small, open train with tracks that are high off the ground and that have sharp curves and steep hills

cool – adj. very fashionable, stylish, or appealing in a way that is generally approved of

inspiring – adj. causing people to want to do or create something or to lead better lives

accomplish – v. to succeed in doing (something)