Hayley Arceneaux is the youngest American to fly into space. As part of the four-member Inspiration4 SpaceX crew, she’s making history. She credits much of where she is today to her parents: her mother, Colleen, and her father, Howard. And while Howard is no longer alive, she’s bringing a memento that honors him into space with her.
1. Her Dad, Howard, Died of Cancer
Arceneaux’s father, Howard Arceneaux, died of cancer about three years ago, she told People. He was only 60 when he died in 2018 of kidney cancer, according to his obituary in The Advocate. He traveled all around the world and worked as a professional journalist. The Advocated noted that he began his career as a sportswriter, later working as a student media advisor at LSU and also as an adjunct professor who taught Senior Media Ethics. He published two monthly magazines and also worked as a freelance journalist. Howard was adopted by Jess Arceneaux after his birth father, Howard Eakin Jr., was killed in Vietnam while serving with the Army, his obituary noted.
Colleen Arceneaux told St. Jude that Howard loved space and would be excited his daughter was going.
“Her father loved space,” she said. “He would’ve been so excited for her.”
Her brother Hayden, an aerospace engineer, is also excited for her and has been preparing her on what sensations to expect while she’s traveling, along with the more mundane things that zero gravity can bring.
2. She & Her Dad Had Gotten Black Belts Just Before She Was Diagnosed with Cancer
Many years before her father had his own cancer battle, Arceneaux was diagnosed at 10 years old. She and her dad had gotten black belts in Taekwondo, St. Jude reported, and her leg pain was initially believed to be from that. But when her mom saw a huge egg-sized bump above her knee, they knew it was something else.
She had bone cancer (osteosarcoma) in her left femur. Arceneaux said that when they found out, they all cried and she told her parents: “I don’t want to die.”
She and her parents traveled to St. Jude for treatment, which included about 12 rounds of chemotherapy and surgery to remove her knee and part of her thigh bone. But because of where her growth plate was located in relation to the cancer, the surgeon had to implant a temporary prosthesis that could be expanded as she grew, St. Jude reported.
3. She’s Bringing a Memento Into Space to Honor Her Father
Arceneaux is bringing a memento to space with her that will honor her dad’s memory, she told People. She found a photo of him wearing his favorite St. Jude tie, and knew this was the perfect memento.
She wrote: ”
To say the tie is bold is putting it lightly, and I used to give him a hard time about wearing it. I would jokingly — but also not jokingly — tell him not to wear it, but he would insist on putting it on because he said people would inevitably ask him about it which would give him the chance to tell them about St. Jude. I found the tie, and I’m bringing it. I know he would get such a kick that it’s going into space on this mission that’s benefiting St. Jude. It’s so perfect.
4. Her Mother Wrote Her Letters to Open in Space
Arceneaux said that her mother, Colleen, wrote her letters to open in space, Today reported. She said that she fully expects to cry while reading them.
She said: “I’m being really good, I’m not going to open them on Earth, but it’s going to be really special. (My tears will) float. I’ll let you know because I think that’s going to be really powerful for me.”
5. Her Mom Encouraged Her To Take the SpaceX Opportunity
Arceneaux said that when she was offered the opportunity to go into space, her mom Colleen said she couldn’t pass it up, St. Jude reported. Colleen admitted she had mixed feelings, but also knew her daughter had to go.
“I wasn’t about to say anything to influence her not to do what she wanted to do,” Colleen told St. Jude.