Why it matters: Hayley Arceneaux, a 29-year-old physician assistant at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, TN, is on track to become the youngest American to ever orbit Earth. She will also be the first person with a prosthetic body part to visit space and one of the first non-professional astronauts to do so.
Earlier this year, billionaire Jared Isaacman announced he was chartering a private flight from SpaceX. Rather than invite friends or family to join him on the trip, Isaacman elected to donate two of the four seats on the spacecraft to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
The pediatric treatment and research facility was founded by entertainer Danny Thomas in 1962 and provides cost-free care to children and young adults battling cancer and other catastrophic diseases. The hospital is using one of the seats on the trip as a prize for a sweepstakes; the other was to go to a frontline health care worker at the facility. Arceneaux was the lucky recipient.
When Arceneaux was 10, she was treated for bone cancer at St. Jude. Doctors had to install metal rods in place of some of the damaged bones in her left leg, surgery that would normally disqualify her from space travel.
The private flight, scheduled for later this year, isn’t destined for the International Space Station. Rather, the spacecraft will orbit Earth for a few days before heading back home. The remaining seat on the flight will go to an entrepreneur as part of a contest being hosted by Shift4 Payments, the business Isaacman owns.
Thumbnail courtesy Elena11