Cancer Survivor on SpaceX Mission Is Bringing a Special Memento From Her Late Father – NBC Connecticut

Hayley Arceneaux ensures that a memento her late father once wore with pride will be with her when she makes history on a spaceflight next month.

Arceneaux spoke exclusively on TODAY Wednesday about her preparation as part of the first all-civilian mission to space aboard SpaceX’s spacecraft, including what items she will pack for the three-day journey into orbit.

The 29-year-old cancer survivor and physician assistant at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital plans to travel with a memento honoring her father, Harold Arceneaux, as well as St. Jude.

“I lost my dad to cancer only three years ago, and he had a really daring St. Jude tie that I used to say, ‘Don’t wear that, it’s not the most fashionable,’ but he would insist on it. because he said people would ask him about it, and then he could tell them about St. Jude,” she told Savannah Guthrie and Hoda Kotb. “So I’m taking his tie to space.”

Arceneaux was a patient in St. Jude when she was 10 years old and was diagnosed with bone cancer. She thought her dream of one day becoming an astronaut was over when doctors removed part of the femur of her left leg, but she has now found a way to make that dream a reality.

She will make history as the youngest American to ever travel to space and the first to wear a prosthesis as part of the Inspiration4 mission launched September 15 from Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

The mission will be led by Jared Isaacman, the 38-year-old billionaire founder and CEO of Shift4 Payments, a Pennsylvania-based payment processing company. Isaacman, a civilian pilot, pays SpaceX founder Elon Musk for the chance to send him and three other civilians into orbit.

The mission doubles as a $200 million fundraiser for St. Jude, with Arceneaux representing the hospital whose doctors saved her life. She said at the 3rd hour of TODAY that she will also be calling the St. Jude patients from space.

“Kids are so visual, it’ll really show them what their future might look like, someone who’s been in the same shoes, and that’s what I’m most excited about,” she said.

She also takes some hops to the space that will be used to make “space beer,” which will be auctioned off to raise money for St. Jude.

Her father’s beloved tie is also not the only special item Arceneaux will take with him on a trip.

“I’ll bring some things that represent me, and I’ll bring pictures of friends I’ve lost to cancer over the years because they’re such an important part of why we’re going on this mission to raise money for St. Jude’s,” she said.

Arceneaux has documented the preparation on Instagram, from fighter jet training to signing her name on the SpaceX rocket to experiencing weightlessness on a gravity flight.

The reality of the upcoming flight began to set in last month when she tried on her spacesuit for the first time.

“It’s so sleek, it’s so cool, and I went to look in the mirror and it was just the craziest thing that made me feel like I was a real astronaut,” she said on TODAY. “I’m going to space, this is going to happen.”

She is also still working on maneuvering in weightlessness.

“It was the strangest sensation not to be attached to anything,” she said. “I ran into a lot of walls and ceilings because it’s harder than you’d expect to navigate in weightlessness, but really cool workout.”

Arceneaux also expects to find out what it’s like to cry in orbit. Her mother has written her a series of letters that she is not allowed to open until she has reached the room.

“I’m doing very well, I’m not going to open them on Earth, but it’s going to be very special,” she said. “(My tears will) float. I’ll let you know because I think that’s going to be very powerful for me.”

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