Inspiration4 astronaut shares 'blast-off' moment in new book

woman floating in orbit with earth behind, holding a childhood picture
Hayley Arceneaux's new memoir describes her journey to space on Inspiration4, a private mission that flew aboard a SpaceX spacecraft in 2021. (Image credit: Inspiration4 crew)

A new book about SpaceX's all-civilian Inspiration4 mission recounts the moving journey that brought one of its astronauts into space.

Hayley Arceneaux's memoir about Inspiration4, called "Wild Ride: A Memoir of I.V. Drips and Rocket Ships", was published by Convergent Books on Tuesday (Sept. 6).

In the book, Arceneaux shares the moment she got the news that'd she be flying with SpaceX. It came via two vice presidents at St. Jude's Research Hospital in Memphis, where she was treated for cancer as a child and where she works today as a physician assistant.

She recalls the vice president of staff asking to "talk to you about something really big," then turning to the vice president of fundraising and asking, "Do you want to take this away? Do you want to blast off?"

Arceneaux recalled her reaction: "I mouthed the words to myself: 'Blast off?'"

Related: Inspiration4: SpaceX's historic private spaceflight in photos

Inspiration4 was a unique mission to Earth orbit, funded and commanded by billionaire Jared Isaacman. Two of the other three seats aboard the SpaceX Dragon capsule were awarded through contests, and the third was reserved for a person (Arceneaux, it turned out) representing St. Jude's.

Isaacman's main goal was to raise money for St. Jude's, and in six months the mission's publicity generated $250 million. (Isaacman will return to space through the Polaris Program, starting with Polaris Dawn no earlier than late 2022.)

The three-day Inspiration4 mission lifted off in September 2021. On it, Isaacman, Arceneaux, Sian Proctor and Chris Sembroski flew higher than the International Space Station to perform science, do work for St. Jude in orbit and take advantage of a new cupola window within the Dragon spacecraft , which provided a 360-degree view of Earth.

Wild Ride: A Memoir of I.V. Drips and Rocket Ships by Hayley Arceneaux | $25.85 at Amazon

Wild Ride: A Memoir of I.V. Drips and Rocket Ships by Hayley Arceneaux | $25.85 at Amazon

Inspiration4 astronaut Hayley Arceneaux shares the unexpected journey to space in her memoir, which also relates her childhood experiences with cancer and how that shaped her career at St. Jude's Research Hospital in Memphis.

Arceneaux explains in her memoir that, for 20 years, she has been devoted to St. Jude's mission.

"I'll do anything I can for this place. When they call on me, I say 'Yes.' And they call me often. I've been giving speeches for St. Jude since I was 10," she says.

The seasoned traveler says she felt awe when trying on the SpaceX custom spacesuit for the first time: "I'm no superhero and this isn't a movie, but I’m going to wear the hell out of that suit," she writes.

Arceneaux is the youngest person to have orbited the Earth, the first pediatric cancer survivor to reach space, and the first person to fly to space with a prosthetic part, according to Inspiration4 materials.

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Elizabeth Howell
Staff Writer, Spaceflight

Elizabeth Howell (she/her), Ph.D., is a staff writer in the spaceflight channel since 2022 covering diversity, education and gaming as well. She was contributing writer for for 10 years before joining full-time. Elizabeth's reporting includes multiple exclusives with the White House and Office of the Vice-President of the United States, an exclusive conversation with aspiring space tourist (and NSYNC bassist) Lance Bass, speaking several times with the International Space Station, witnessing five human spaceflight launches on two continents, flying parabolic, working inside a spacesuit, and participating in a simulated Mars mission. Her latest book, "Why Am I Taller?", is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University and a Bachelor of History from Canada's Athabasca University. Elizabeth is also a post-secondary instructor in communications and science at several institutions since 2015; her experience includes developing and teaching an astronomy course at Canada's Algonquin College (with Indigenous content as well) to more than 1,000 students since 2020. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday. Mastodon: