SpaceX recently announced that it will send four civilians into orbit aboard its Crew Dragon capsule, the first time a crew has ever gone into space without a single professional astronaut. According to the NY Times, one such individual will be Hayley Arsenault, who at 29 will become the youngest American ever to fly into space.
The trip was thanks to Jared Isaacman, the billionaire who bought SpaceX’s first commercial space rocket launch. He will receive one Crew Dragon seat in the Inspiration 4 mission, but he also donated three more. One will go to the winner of the competition sponsored by his company, Shift4, and the other to the St. Jude Hospital lottery winner. However, the fourth place was for the employee of the St. Jude Hospital, who symbolizes hope, and that person is Hayley Arsenault.
Arsenault is now a physician assistant at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, but she was a patient nearly 20 years ago. In 2002, she was treated for bone cancer, and now she has metal rods on her left leg instead of some bones. Thus, she will also become the first person with a prosthetic body part to go into space.
Usually, such a disease disqualifies aspiring astronauts, and Arsenault is still limping and sometimes aching in his legs. However, SpaceX has allowed her to fly and will serve as the crew’s doctor. “My battle with cancer prepared me for space travel,” she told The Associated Press. “It made me resilient, and besides, I think it taught me to expect the unexpected and get going.”
Isaacman, who flies the MiG-29 and other military aircraft for fun, said Hayley is perfect for a civilian space crew. “It’s not all about people being thrilled to be astronauts someday, which is cool,” Isaacman said last week. “It should also be an inspiring message of what we can achieve here on Earth.”
SpaceX’s last crewed launch, Crew-1 (top), took place in November last year, and the next, Crew-2, is scheduled for April 2021. Next month, Isaacman will talk about other space tourists on the Inspiration4 mission, but they won’t. There is plenty of time to prepare – NASA’s Kennedy Space Center is slated to launch in October, and the orbit will last two to four days.