Cancer Survivor Hayley Arceneaux Flies to Space! Read the Civilian Astronaut's Personal Diary

Since July, Hayley Arceneaux has shared the scoop from her SpaceX training for the historic Inspiration4 mission in exclusive diaries for PEOPLE

01 of 09

Over the Moon

Jared Isaacman, Hayley Arceneaux, Sian Proctor and Chris Sembroski Inspiration4 crew
JOHN KRAUS/© 2021 Inspiration4 2021/Netflix/AFP via Getty

On Wednesday night, Sept. 15, Chris Sembroski, Dr. Sian Proctor, Jared Isaacman and Hayley Arceneaux (pictured left to right) will make history as the first all-civilian mission to blast off into outer space.

Shooting from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida with a launch window opening at 8:02 p.m., the four will fly in SpaceX's Crew Dragon capsule and tour Earth's orbit for three days.

Earthside, the Inspiration4 mission is fundraising for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital with a $200 million goal – to which Isaacman has already pledged $100 million, per the pediatric care center.

02 of 09

Focused Four

Hayley Arceneaux
Dr. Sian Proctor and Hayley Arceneaux. Courtesy SpaceX

"Every day of my life, there is some aspect of Inspiration4 preparation — exercise, study, planning, etc. Every few weeks we train either on site at SpaceX in California or another location for specialized sessions," Arceneaux wrote in a diary entry for PEOPLE July 12.

"At one point, we got into our assigned seats for the first time, while wearing our space suits. As I sat in my window seat in the leftmost position, I looked to my right at my crewmates Sian, Chris and Jared, and it just all felt so right and exciting. It felt like we were all exactly where we were supposed to be."

03 of 09

Making an Impact

Astronaut-in-Training Hayley Arceneaux
Courtesy St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital

The astronaut-in-training works as a physician assistant at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, where she beat cancer at age 10. In a July 20 diary entry, Arceneaux said that speaking to young patients in the grade school program on the hospital campus was one of the "most special" assignments ahead of her adventure.

"I was so honored and excited, especially because I work with a lot of these awesome kids every day. Over three different classes, with kids aged 5 to 10, I told them about the mission, but also kept saying, 'I'm doing this, and you can too,' " she said of her inspirational message.

04 of 09

Reaching New Heights

Hayley Arceneaux
Hayley Arceneaux training on Mount Rainier. Hayley Arceneaux/Inspiration4

In a July 28 essay, Arceneaux recalled the Inspiration4 crew's intense hike of Mt. Rainier to train and bond as a group. The astronaut-to-be has a prosthesis in her leg from beating osteosarcoma (bone cancer) in childhood, and cited her young patients at St. Jude as her inspiration while trudging to her destination at 10,500 ft.

"When I was climbing Mt. Rainier, I thought about how I could share the experience with [the kids]. Climbing a mountain is a lot like battling cancer. You have to keep the end goal in mind, but also take one — sometimes hard, painful, difficult — step at a time to reach your destination," she wrote.

05 of 09

Bringing a Little Bit of Home

Hayley Arceneaux
Hayley Arceneaux. John Kraus/Inspiration4

Each crew member on the Crew Dragon capsule can bring a carry-on with personal mementos, and Arceneaux planned to pack a cherished photo of her late father Howard, who died of cancer three years ago.

"We were so close, and he was one of my biggest cheerleaders — especially during my cancer diagnosis and treatment at St. Jude," she wrote on Aug. 3. "I've thought about him so much during this incredible experience and wish I could share it with him."

06 of 09

Toasting to Takeoff

Civilian Astronaut Hayley Arceneaux
Hayley Arceneaux. Courtesy Hayley Arceneaux

The civilian astronaut thanked her lucky stars for great friends in a post on Aug. 16, opening up about the small "Lift Off" party thrown in her honor ahead of the mission.

"My friends have been so uplifting and encouraging not just now, but throughout my life. For the people in my krewe [close group] it's about putting each other before ourselves," she said. "Of course, I won't be able to physically see them at lift off, but I know they will be there with me then and every moment of this incredible journey."

07 of 09

New Maverick in Town

Cancer Survivor Hayley Arceneaux Hits 8 Gs in Astronaut Training Weeks Before SpaceX Launch
Hayley Arceneaux. Courtesy John Kraus and Inspiration4

Training ramped up in August for the SpaceX crew, and Arceneaux was proud to push herself during fighter jet training in Montana.

"I was flown by one of our Inspiration4 team members named Kidd who is a former Thunderbird pilot. I told him I wanted to hit high G forces and do some rolls in the jet, and I'm proud to say we hit eight Gs [eight times the force of gravity], even more than I experienced during centrifuge training," she wrote.

"I texted my orthopedic surgeon afterward to tell him my internal prosthesis can officially handle extreme force. He said that he knew a long time ago he had to stop putting limitations on me and what my body can do."

08 of 09

Scrubbing Up for Space

Hayley Arceneaux
Courtesy John Kraus and Inspiration4

"Something I'm incredibly excited about our Inspiration4 mission is my assigned crew role. A few weeks after I found out I was going to space, I was approached about being the Medical Officer. I've been interested in a career in medicine since I was 10, when I was treated by such an incredible medical team at St. Jude," she wrote Aug. 31.

"Almost 20 years later, I am in my dream job as a physician assistant at St. Jude. I never imagined I'd add space medicine to my resume, but here we are."

09 of 09

Shooting for the Stars

Hayley Arceneaux
Hayley Arceneaux. Courtesy of Hayley Arceneaux

In her final diary for PEOPLE on Sept. 14, Arceneaux said she felt "calm and excited" ahead of the life-changing trip.

"I plan on eating a glazed donut, my favorite kind, the morning of launch; I'll be wearing my go-to red lipstick; and I'll be launching into orbit with the memories of all my friends that didn't make it through cancer, all the kids who are in the battle right now, and all the other survivors — in my mind and heart," she said. "It's definitely not lost on me how lucky I am to be where I am."

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