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LSU Health Shreveport alum becomes youngest American to visit space

On Sept. 15, 2021, Haley Arceneaux will become the youngest American to travel to space, as...
On Sept. 15, 2021, Haley Arceneaux will become the youngest American to travel to space, as well as the first cancer survivor and the first person with a prosthesis.(LSU Health Shreveport)
Published: Sep. 15, 2021 at 10:24 AM CDT|Updated: Sep. 15, 2021 at 7:51 PM CDT
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SHREVEPORT, La. (KSLA) - Hayley Arceneaux is a 2016 graduate of the physician assistant program in the School of Allied Health Professions at LSU Health Shreveport, and she’s making history.

On Sept. 15, she became the youngest American to visit space. Arceneaux works as a physician assistant at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

Arceneaux is part of Inspiration4, so named after the four-member, all-civilian mission that aims to raise awareness and money for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. She was cured of childhood cancer there in the early 2000s.

Not only has Arceneaux become the youngest American to visit space, she is also the first cancer survivor and the first person with a prosthesis to visit space.

Arceneaux was 10 years old when she was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, LSU Health Shreveport university says. It’s a rare bone cancer that doctors found in her left leg. The diagnosis came just one week after she earned her black belt in taekwondo.

Arceneaux and her family traveled to Memphis to seek treatment at St. Jude. She endured a “very difficult” surgery in which doctors removed the tumor and installed an artificial femur and knee. Arceneaux then underwent a year of “very intense chemotherapy.”

Despite the challenges, Arceneaux says it was “an important time” that made her who she is today.

On Sept. 15, 2021, Hayley Arceneaux became the youngest American, the first cancer survivor and...
On Sept. 15, 2021, Hayley Arceneaux became the youngest American, the first cancer survivor and the first person with a prosthesis to travel to space.(LSU Health Shreveport)

About nine months after beginning her work at St. Jude, Arceneaux says she was offered the opportunity to join the Inspiration4 crew. “When I got the call, they started talking about the background of this mission to space; and then they asked me if I wanted to have a seat on board.”

Other members of the mission are Chris Sembroski, Dr. Sian Proctor and Jared Isaacman serving as commander. Arceneaux is the team’s medical officer; Sembroski is an aerospace data engineer; and Proctor is the mission pilot.

Their mission now is the first human spaceflight to reach orbit with a crew made up entirely of private citizens. Thus far, every crew to fly in Earth’s orbit has been led by a government-employed astronaut.

Arceneaux will be using her education through LSU Health Shreveport as a physician assistant to serve as the medical director for this space mission.

“She is incredibly intelligent, but she is also a whole lot of fun,” said Lindsay Ferrington, clinical coordinator and assistant professor for the PA program at LSU Health Shreveport. “She was always making people laugh and acting silly to try to lighten the mood whenever school got stressful or tough.

“Of anybody, I could see Hayley doing this. But whenever I saw on social media earlier this year that she was going to space, it shocked me. You don’t teach PA school to put out astronauts. I just didn’t think that was going to be possible. But if anybody could do it, it was Hayley.

“The day she interviewed at PA school, she said she wanted to work at St, Jude’s and she got that job,” Ferrington continued. “I feel like she can accomplish anything that she sets her mind to.

“It’s a big deal; we’re the only PA program that has an astronaut. I just want her to know we are really proud of her and we are excited that she is getting to do this. We are so excited at what this means for the PA profession and how it’s being put on the map.”

Haley Arceneaux
Haley Arceneaux(SpaceX)
Dr. Sian Proctor
Dr. Sian Proctor(SpaceX)
Jared Isaacman
Jared Isaacman(SpaceX)
Chris Sembroski
Chris Sembroski(SpaceX)

Arceneaux chatted with Isaacman on a Zoom call a few days after agreeing to the mission. He explained how the trip would be used to raise money for St. Jude. The crew hopes to raise $200 million.

It’s all part of Isaacman’s goal to give hope to kids with cancer and other life-threatening illnesses. Click here to find out how you can donate.

This mission is different from those in July by Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin (funded by Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos, respectively) because those missions were suborbital, meaning they only reached the edge of space, giving those aboard a few minutes of microgravity and brief views of Earth from an altitude of more than 50 miles.

The Inspiration4 mission, in contrast, is a three-day mission in which the Crew Dragon capsule will circle Earth dozens of times before re-entering the atmosphere with a parachute-assisted splashdown off Florida’s coast. It will be the fourth flight with people on board for the Crew Dragon capsule, following three previous launches that carried NASA astronauts to the International Space Station.

The launch was streamed on SpaceX’s YouTube channel Wednesday at 2:45 p.m. It also was streamed on space.com courtesy of SpaceX. The five-hour launch window from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida opened at 7:02 p.m.

LSU Health Shreveport held a watch party for students Wednesday night and into Thursday morning.

You can track SpaceX’s Falcon 9 and the Inspiration 4 crew here.

Click here to learn more about the mission.

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