Baton Rouge native, cancer survivor to be youngest American in space

A 29-year-old cancer survivor and Baton Rouge-area native who is now a physician’s assistant at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memhis, Tennessee, will blast off aboard a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule later this year for a flight dedicated to raising money for the medical center, the hospital announced today. 

Hayley Arceneaux, who will be the youngest American to fly in space, will join three other passengers aboard a commercial flight chartered by billionaire Jared Isaacman, who arranged to purchase the launch from SpaceX. The mission is known as Inspiration4, CBSNews reports

Arceneaux grew up in St. Francisville, and was a bone cancer patient at St. Jude when she was 10 years old. Her treatment included implanting metal rods in the bones of her left leg.  

“It’s an incredible honor to join the Inspiration4 crew,” Arceneaux says. “This seat represents the hope that St. Jude gave me and continues to give families from around the world, who, like me, find hope when they walk through the doors of St. Jude.”   

A veteran private pilot with extensive experience in jets, Isaacman will serve as the mission commander. Isaacman, the founder and CEO of Shift4 Payments, is giving two Crew Dragon seats to St. Jude. One seat is going to Arceneaux and the other to the winner of a contest to raise money for the famed research center, which specializes in treating children with cancer and other diseases at no charge. 

The fourth seat will go to an entrepreneur using Shift4 Payments to build an online store using the company’s credit card terminals and software. 

Unlike NASA-chartered Crew Dragon flights and another commercial mission booked by Houston-based Axiom Space, Isaacman’s flight will not visit the International Space Station. Instead, the four crew members, none of them astronauts, will blast off atop a Falcon 9 rocket from the Kennedy Space Center, fly around Earth for a few days and return to an Atlantic Ocean splashdown.

A launch date has not yet been set, but the flight is expected late this year. Read the full story.