Hayley Arceneaux, 29, had hoped this might be the yr that she would full her intention of visiting all seven continents earlier than she turned 30.
She won’t have time to try this, although.
She goes to area.
Ms. Arceneaux, a doctor assistant at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, might be one in every of 4 individuals on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifting off from Florida. Scheduled to launch late this yr, it’s to be the primary crewed mission to circle Earth by which nobody on board is an expert astronaut.
“I did ask, ‘Am I going to get a passport stamp for going to space?’” Ms. Arceneaux mentioned. “But I don’t think I’m going to. So I’m just going to draw a star and the moon in one of my passports.”
This journey is spearheaded by Jared Isaacman, a 38-year-old billionaire who introduced in January that he had purchased the rocket launch from SpaceX, the area firm started by Elon Musk. Mr. Isaacman mentioned at the time that he needed the mission to be greater than a jaunt for the superwealthy, and that he had given two of the 4 obtainable seats to St. Jude.
One of them will go to a random winner in a sweepstakes contest to increase cash for the hospital, which treats youngsters at no cost and develops cures for childhood cancers and different ailments.
The different seat, Mr. Isaacman mentioned, might be crammed by a frontline health care employee at St. Jude, somebody who symbolizes hope.
On Monday, St. Jude officers and Mr. Isaacman revealed that Ms. Arceneaux was the person they’d chosen.
Ms. Arceneaux may change into the youngest American ever to journey to orbit. She will even be the primary person with a prosthetic body half to go to area. She was a affected person at St. Jude almost 20 years in the past, and as a part of her therapy for bone most cancers, steel rods changed elements of the bones in her left leg.
In the previous, that will have saved her firmly on the bottom, unable to meet NASA’s stringent medical standards for astronauts. But the appearance of privately financed area journey has opened the ultimate frontier to some individuals who had been beforehand excluded.
Dr. Michael D. Neel, the orthopedic surgeon who put in Ms. Arceneaux’s prosthesis, says that though having synthetic leg bones implies that she will be able to’t play contact sports activities on Earth, they need to not restrict her on this SpaceX trek.
“It shows us that the sky is not the limit,” Dr. Neel mentioned. “It’s the sky and beyond. I think that’s the real point of all this, that she has very little limitations as far as what you can do. Unless you’re going to play football up there.”
Ms. Arceneaux mentioned she hoped to provide inspiration to sufferers at St. Jude.
“They’ll be able to see a cancer survivor in space, especially one that has gone through the same thing that they have,” she mentioned. “It’s going to help them visualize their future.”
Richard C. Shadyac Jr., the president of ALSAC, the fund-raising organization for St. Jude, mentioned of Ms. Arceneaux, “If anybody was emblematic of the notion of hope, it was Hayley.”
Ms. Arceneaux herself didn’t discover out she would have a seat on the rocket till early January. Officials at the hospital had vaguely informed her that there was a chance they needed to speak to her about. She mentioned she had thought that “maybe it would be a commercial or maybe giving a speech somewhere.”
Instead, it was a chance to be an astronaut.
“I even kind of laughed,” Ms. Arceneaux mentioned. “I was like, “What? Yes. Yes, please, that would be amazing.” She then added, “Let me talk to my mom.”
Her mother didn’t object.
Ms. Arceneaux walked into St. Jude for the primary time in 2002. She was 10. Not lengthy earlier than, she had earned her black belt in taekwondo, however she was complaining of ache in her leg. Her mom noticed a bump protruding over the left knee. The pediatrician within the small city of St. Francisville, La., the place they lived, not removed from Baton Rouge, informed them that it seemed like a cancerous tumor.
“We all fell apart,” Ms. Arceneaux mentioned. “I remember just being so scared because at age 10, everyone I had known with cancer had died.”
At St. Jude, medical doctors supplied the excellent news that the most cancers had not unfold to different elements of her body. Ms. Arceneaux went via chemotherapy, an operation to set up the prosthetic leg bones and lengthy classes of bodily remedy.
Even at that younger age, bald from chemotherapy, Ms. Arceneaux was serving to at fund-raisers for St. Jude. The subsequent yr, Louisiana Public Broadcasting honored her with one in every of its Young Heroes awards.
“When I grow up, I want to be a nurse at St. Jude,” she mentioned in a video shown at the ceremony in 2003. “I want to be a mentor to patients. When they come in, I’ll say, ‘I had that when I was little, and I’m doing good.’”
Last yr, Ms. Arceneaux was employed by St. Jude. She works with youngsters with leukemia and lymphoma, similar to a teenage boy she talked with not too long ago.
“I shared with him that I also lost my hair,” Ms. Arceneaux mentioned. “I told him: ‘You can ask me anything. I’m a former patient. I’ll tell you the truth, anything you want to know.’ And he said, ‘Will you really tell me the truth?’ And I said yes.”
His burning query: “Are you the one going to space?”
Ms. Arceneaux had to dodge. “I said, ‘Well, we’ll see who gets announced.’” she mentioned. “But I think he knew because then he and his dad were like “Yeah!” and high-fived.”
Ms. Arceneaux and Mr. Isaacman have visited SpaceX’s headquarters in California 3 times to meet with engineers and to start planning the journey. Unlike the missions that SpaceX flies for NASA, this one won’t go to the International Space Station however will as an alternative orbit Earth for 3 or 4 days earlier than splashing down off the Florida coast.
“She’s got an adventurous spirit,” Mr. Isaacman mentioned of Ms. Arceneaux. “And now she gets to travel to the stars, which is pretty cool.”
It will nonetheless be a number of extra weeks earlier than they know who their companions might be.
The St. Jude sweepstakes, publicized in a television commercial that was broadcast during the Super Bowl two weeks in the past, will run via the top of the month. It has thus far raised about $9.5 million. That appears to fall far wanting the $100 million Mr. Isaacman has himself dedicated to St. Jude, or the general objective of $200 million. But Mr. Isaacman and Mr. Shadyac mentioned that the fund-raising effort would transcend the sweepstakes and that they had been happy with the progress.
“This is going to be a campaign that’s going to extend all the way until the launch,” Mr. Shadyac mentioned.
The sweepstakes is structured in a method that successfully limits the dimensions of donations. One entry is free. A minimal donation of $10 buys 100 entries, and every extra greenback donated buys 10 extra entries, up to $1,000 for 10,000 entries.
There had been some pricier choices obtainable that at the moment are offered out. For instance, Mr. Isaacman will give a donor who contributed $100,000 a journey within the Russian-built MiG-29 jet fighter that he owns. The donor will even get a visit to watch the launch at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. But that donor nonetheless has simply 10,000 entries within the sweepstakes, the identical as somebody who donated $1,000.
Mr. Isaacman mentioned this was a deliberate selection to stop a rich person from making an attempt to snap up the grand prize of a visit to area by shopping for thousands and thousands of entries.
“Is it going to represent all of the people of Earth and not just rich white guys?” Mr. Isaacman mentioned.
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 methods to eating places and different companies. The “Shark Tank”-like competitors requires entrepreneurs to design a web based retailer utilizing Shift4’s software program after which submit a video on Twitter describing their enterprise.
As of final week, fewer than 100 individuals had submitted full entries. “It means if you had made a Shift4 shop and entered it, you’ve got pretty amazing odds,” Mr. Isaacman mentioned.