Youngest American in space to be 29-year-old cancer survivor

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NEW YORK | Hayley Arceneaux, 29, will not only become by the end of the year one of the first “space tourists” to fly without the presence of a professional, but will also be the youngest American astronaut and the first pediatric cancer survivor to be launched into orbit.

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Due to bone cancer contracted as a child, she carries steel rods in her left leg, which in the still recent past would have been enough to destroy her dreams of space.

This was without counting Jared Isaacman, a young American billionaire passionate about space exploration, who chartered a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket at his own expense and decided to welcome three other people on board.

The first elected to this unprecedented mission, called Inspiration4 and which is due to take off at the end of 2021, is Hayley.

The young woman was treated as a child by St Jude’s pediatric hospital in Memphis (Tennessee), which specializes in childhood illnesses and in particular cancers, an institution for which Jared Isaacman hopes to raise some $ 200 million as part of the space mission.

“I received a surprise phone call in early January. (…) I was explained the idea of ​​the mission and, basically, I was asked: “Do you want to go to space? ””, Remembers Hayley Arceneaux.

“I immediately said: ‘Yes, yes absolutely! “”, Explains to AFP the young woman, who now works for the same hospital, as a medical assistant.

As a child, she had visited the NASA center in Houston (Texas). “Of course, I wanted to become an astronaut. But then, a few months later, I was diagnosed with cancer and it really changed my world, ”she says.

“Until now, astronauts really had to be physically perfect. This is not a category I belong to because of the operations I had on my leg. And one of the things that excites me so much about this mission is that it opens up space travel to everyone, ”says Hayley.

“Have big dreams”

“To be the youngest American woman to go to space is a great honor, but honestly, what appeals to me the most is being the first pediatric cancer survivor to go to space, which it will mean for the kids who are being treated for cancer, ”she adds.

“I would like to encourage my patients to have big dreams and not to set limits on themselves. And I really hope to show them that anything is possible, ”says Hayley.

The last two members of the mission will be a donor of the fundraising organized for St Jude, drawn by lot, and a person wishing to start a business to “change the world”, selected by a jury.

They should be known next month and start training with Jared Isaacman and Hayley in the process. “First, we are going to use a centrifuge, to prepare our body for the gravitational force” collected during the launch of the rocket, explains the latter.

In the meantime, the young woman “asks herself a lot of questions:” what am I going to wear in space, what am I going to eat, can we have makeup in the room? ‘space” ? “

“Lots of silly questions like that, but also how the rocket is going to take off, how are we going to orbit the Earth? », She adds.

The mission, scheduled for the end of the year, is slated to last several days, and space tourists will circle the Earth in low orbit every 90 minutes.

At the end of the mission, the Dragon capsule, the same model as the one that succeeded last November in orbiting four astronauts en route to the International Space Station, will enter the atmosphere for a landing off the coast of Canada. coasts of Florida.