SpaceX, Shift4’s Inspiration4 mission selects 29-year old cancer survivor as its second crew member

This coming October, four civilians will launch in a SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft atop a Falcon 9 rocket. 38-year-old Jared Isaacman, an experienced pilot and the founder and CEO of Shift4Payments, a credit card processing company, will command the mission. Three other civilians, the first of which was recently verified, will join the entrepreneur in this groundbreaking mission.

St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital announced on Monday that 29-year-old physician assistant and cancer survivor Hayley Arceneaux will be joining Isaacman as the medical officer of the crew. Arceneaux will be the youngest person to go to space in history. She will also be the first person to launch with a prosthesis, a reminder of her past battle with cancer.

Arceneaux was 10 when she underwent St. Jude surgery to replace her knee and have a titanium rod placed her left thigh bone. Though she is still limping and suffering from intermittent leg pain, SpaceX has been cleared for flight. She noted in her interview with The Associated Press that her struggle with cancer really prepared her for the challenges of space travel.

“My battle with cancer really prepared me for space travel. It made me tough, and then also I think it really taught me to expect the unexpected and go along for the ride,” she said, adding that through the Inspiration4 mission, she is aiming to prove to 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,” Arceneaux noted. 

On February 1, Isaacman revealed Inspiration4, along with a promise to raise $200 million for St. Jude, half of which will come from his own donation. As the commander of the mission, the founder and CEO of Shift4Payments opted to offer one of the four Crew Dragon capsule seats to St. Jude. Rick Shadyac, president of St. Jude’s fundraising organization, noted that Arceneaux was selected from among “scores” of hospital and fundraising employees who had previously been patients and who could effectively represent the next generation. 

The crew will perform experiments in space designed to extend humanity’s understanding of the cosmos, as per the website of the Inspiration4 mission. The 365-lb freight capacity of Crew Dragon will be allocated to both crew essentials and scientific equipment dedicated to experimental microgravity research. The mission aims to devote the maximum possible mass to its research objectives, which should provide space access for inspiring projects that are “otherwise unable to overcome the high barriers of traditional space-based research.” The crew is likely to spend about 2-4 days in Earth’s orbit.

With two of the crew members of Inspiration4 now decided, the search for the occupants of the two remaining seats of Crew Dragon is ongoing. Isaacman, for his part, noted that sometime in March, he expects to announce the last two crew members of the civilian space mission. Liftoff is scheduled at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center this coming October.

Watch Hayley Arceneaux’s interview with NBC NEWS TODAY in the video below.

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