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Memphian to Be Passenger on Private Space Flight

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Hayley Arceneaux recently had a wardrobe fitting, of sorts.  

“It’s heavier than you would imagine, and you kind of dive into it,” she says.

She’s talking about a space suit, which she needs because if all goes as planned, she’s going to require a little extra protection

“Y’all, I’m going to space!” the 29-year-old Memphis resident recently exclaimed on a Zoom call.

Last week, Arceneaux was named the first passenger to accompany billionaire Jared Isaacman on an earth orbiting quest set to launch later this year. It’s a privately-funded endeavor billed as the first all-civilian mission, with Issacman as the trip’s commander and financier.

Made possible through the commercial company, SpaceX, the flight is also a philanthropic campaign for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. In addition to giving the Memphis institution its largest ever one-time donation of $100 million, Issacman reserved one of the four seats on his shuttle for a St. Jude employee. 

That’s where Arceneaux comes in. She not only works as a physician’s assistant at the hospital, but was a childhood bone cancer patient there in 2002. She’ll be representing what’s been dubbed the “hope” post on the venture. 

“I hope to use this hope seat to really show kids going through cancer treatment—and cancer survivors everywhere—what survivorship can look like and what the future after cancer treatment can look like,” she says. 

Arceneaux will be the flight’s medical officer, and at 29 might become the youngest American to see the globe from above. But, there’s a chance one of her two still unnamed co-passengers could still claim that title. 

St. Jude has raised an additional $11 million dollars by raffling off one seat to anyone who donated to the hospital through the end of February. A winner should be announced in the spring, a spokesperson said but the hospital has not released information on how many people in the end contributed and qualified for the sweepstakes. 

The winner of a separate contest for entrepreneurs will claim the final spot. 

Once finalized, the group will begin more specialized preparations for the expedition, including centrifuge training and will practice partial and full-mission simulations.

“I’m really not scared,” Arceneaux says. “I’ve met the lead engineers for every aspect of our mission, and they know what they are doing. I feel like we’re in completely capable hands.”