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Courtesy of Hayley Arceneaux
Hayley Arceneaux is flying to space on Wednesday! Since July, she's taken PEOPLE readers inside her out-of-this-world preparations by sharing her personal diary entries. Though the 29-year-old has a career as a physician assistant at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, where she beat cancer at the age of 10, Arceneaux has added astronaut to her resume by training for the first all-civilian mission into outer space alongside billionaire Jared Isaacman (the Shift4 Payments CEO who is sponsoring the SpaceX flight), Christopher Sembroski and Dr. Sian Proctor. Together they are striving to "inspire support for the lifesaving work of St. Jude," the hospital says of its $200 million fundraising goal. Before the Inspiration4 crew blasts off to space for a three-day mission on Wednesday, click here to read all of Arceneaux's diary entries.
As we enter the final stretch to launch, I'm welcoming the mandatory quarantine and rest. During this time, I'm very aware of where I am in time — how many days I have until launch, how much time I have left to get ready. But I feel so calm and excited.
I expected to be nervous at this point. And it's not that it hasn't sunk in — I'm VERY aware that I'm about to go to space — but I'm feeling so peaceful about it. I was hoping to be dreaming about space by now, but so far no floating-in-space dreams.
While I was home, I spent a lot of time with my super fluffy, 3-year-old Aussiedoodle Scarlett — cooking, going for walks and watching old episodes of 30 Rock. I called our astronaut operations lead at SpaceX the other day and asked if there was anything more specific I should have been doing, and she said to relax, which is exactly what NASA mission prelaunch requires. But truth be told, because I'm a type-A over-achiever, I have spent a lot of this time reviewing our study materials and medical procedures.
Courtesy of Hayley Arceneaux Hayley Arceneaux
I've also been catching up with friends over the phone and sharing some of my experiences on social media. I recognize that I'm getting to do something almost no one else gets to do, and for me it's my duty to share the experiences with the world. Instagram (@hayleyarc) is my social media of choice and Twitter (@ArceneauxHayley) is where I've been able to connect with the incredibly supportive space community.
Through Twitter I've also able to drive a lot of fundraising for St. Jude as part of the $200 million goal that's been set for this mission. This past week, my personal fundraising page reached its goal of $20,000 thanks to some amazing supporters, the majority of whom were strangers from Twitter.
Through social media I've also been uplifted by other cancer survivors and families of cancer patients who have reached out. They've let me know that my journey has encouraged them. One father I connected with is also a physician assistant and not long ago lost his daughter to cancer. I'm bringing her picture to space.
Several astronauts I've spoken to say that the experience of seeing Earth from space changes them forever. It's called the Overview Effect. It doesn't happen to everyone, and I've wondered if I will experience it. In what ways will seeing Earth from space change me? What happens after we come back? One thing that's unique to us as civilian astronauts is that instead of going up to do another mission after we return, or working for NASA, or retiring, we are writing a new chapter for space exploration and what we do will set a precedent. I know we will all stay in touch — we all talk everyday as it is, and we've gone through so much together to get to this point — but we'll probably go back to our regular lives in some way or another.
Courtesy of Hayley Arceneaux Hayley Arceneaux's dog Scarlett
In the meantime, here are a few things I know for the moment: 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. It's definitely not lost on me how lucky I am to be where I am.
Episodes of Countdown: Inspiration4 Mission To Space are available on Netflix now. To learn more about St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, the Inspiration4 mission and ways you can support and participate, visit stjude.org/inspiration4 and listen to the podcast St. Jude Mission of a Lifetime. Fans can also follow Hayley's personal journey into space on Instagram and Twitter.