29-year-old physician assistant and cancer survivor Hayley Arceneaux is the latest member to join SpaceX’s all-civilian crew. Her age makes her the youngest American woman to ever go into space—and that’s only one of the things that makes her a badass.
Arceneaux is breaking a lot of boundaries. Women have gone to space before, but in smaller numbers compared to their male colleagues. Before Arceneaux, SpaceX had only sent one other woman to the moon. And she totally breaks boundaries that would normally keep someone like her from heading to space. Arceneaux was diagnosed with bone cancer when she was 10 years old. From The 19th:
Under current NASA medical guidelines, Arceneaux would have not been able to participate in the mission: She has an artificial joint in her leg and a titanium rod in her left thigh bone stemming from her treatment. She spent a year undergoing intensive chemotherapy and surgery to remove a lump that had formed on her left knee. She had to learn to walk again.
Astronauts undergo stringent physical tests to qualify for flight, and a prosthesis would have disqualified her for a mission if it weren’t for the commercial nature of the flight. Women were initially excluded from spaceflight because of assumptions around physical fitness and gendered expectations.
She’s able to take the trip because the flight is led by billionaire Jared Isaacman, who bought the flight from SpaceX and decided to set aside two seats for folks who have been treated or worked at St. Jude. Arceneaux, a former patient, had only been working as a physician assistant at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital when she received the call to join the crew.
Her answer was a resounding “yes!” followed by a request that she ask her mom, who had gone through a hell of a lot to keep her daughter healthy. But it was the kind of opportunity you'd be silly to pass up.
“Women belong in space … I’m not going to be the last,” Arceneaux said. “And I am incredibly excited to represent women, and then represent those who aren’t physically perfect.”