The countdown for Hayley Arceneaux's trip to space is nearing zero.
The Baton Rouge native is one of four people who will lift off from Cape Canaveral Wednesday aboard a SpaceX rocket in history's first all-civilian space flight named Inspiration4.
The launch is scheduled for a five-hour window starting at 7:02 p.m. CDT Wednesday. The latest forecast from the U.S. Space Force’s 45th Weather Squadron predicts a 70% chance of favorable conditions for liftoff at the launch complex, according to an Inspiration4 news release. A backup launch window is available starting at 7:05 p.m. CDT Thursday.
You can watch the launch online at spacex.com/launches.
Arceneaux, 29, joins businessman-philanthropist Jared Isaacman, geoscientist Sian Proctor and aerospace industry worker Chris Sembroski on a three-day trip 500 kilometers above the earth's surface. The orbit will be outside that of the International Space Station, meaning the crew will go farther into space than anyone has in more than 12 years.
Arceneaux was chosen because of her association with St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, which is the beneficiary of the space mission's $200 million fundraising goal. Arceneaux was a St. Jude patient after being diagnosed with bone cancer when she was 10 and now is a physician assistant there.
The daughter of Colleen Arceneaux, of St. Francisville, and the late Howard Arceneaux was featured Tuesday on "CBS Mornings." In the show's taped "Note to Self" segment, Arceneaux reflected on how her cancer experience led to this moment in words she wrote to her younger self.
"You are in for such a wild ride — literally," Arceneaux said. "We're going on a rocket ship to space — outer space — and the whole world will be watching. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I'd be telling you this."
She noted that her brother, Hayden, had actually fallen in love with space at age 6 when the family visited NASA facilities in Houston. Hayden Arceneaux is now an aerospace engineer.
Shortly after that trip, Hayley Arceneaux was diagnosed with osteosarcoma in her left femur just above the knee in 2002. Her treatment at St. Jude included chemotherapy and a then-breakthrough surgery in which most of her femur was removed and replaced with a prosthetic device that can expand without more surgery as she grew.
While at St. Jude, Arceneaux became an ambassador for the organization, telling her story to raise funds and awareness for the research hospital. She returned to the hospital for continuing care and became a summer intern in the Pediatric Oncology Education program in 2013 before becoming a physician assistant, which she calls her "dream job."
"Having cancer makes you who you are, and you become stronger for it," Arceneaux said. "I tell my patients the same thing today."
Arceneaux, who will be the youngest American and the first person with an internal prosthesis to fly in space, and the rest of the crew has received centrifuge, hypoxia, zero-gravity and water-survival training for the flight, which will end with a splashdown off Florida.
Hayley's mom, brother and sister-in-law were at Cape Canaveral with the soon-to-be astronaut. After watching the launch in person, they will stay through her return to Earth.
The precise time and location of splashdown won't be determined until 24 hours in advance, Colleen Arceneaux said. The splashdown could be in the Atlantic Ocean or Gulf of Mexico, depending on conditions.
"They're all very excited," Colleen Arceneaux said. "It's exciting being here with the other families. I think they're all very pumped up. They know they're ready."