St. Jude Patients Fighting Cancer Bond with Inspiration4 Crew Live from Space: 'It's Just Amazing'

·4 min read

Inspiration4 is living up to their name hundreds of miles away in space.

On Thursday, the all-civilian crew — including commander Jared Isaacman, 38, medical officer Hayley Arceneaux, 29, pilot Dr. Sian Proctor, 51, and mission specialist Christopher Sembroski, 41 — video-called St. Jude Children's Research Hospital to share their experience aboard SpaceX's Resilience capsule with several children fighting cancer in Memphis, Tennessee.

One of those children is Matthew, a 6-year-old boy battling acute lymphoblastic leukemia.

"We saw the earth," he tells PEOPLE of the kids' incredible view.

Ranging in age from 6 to 15, the St. Jude patients got to ask their most burning questions, including "What is your favorite space food?" (pizza is high on the list!) and "Is there such thing as aliens in space?" (hear the cute response at the 7:50 mark in the video above).

For more on Hayley Arceneaux's video call to Matthew and other top stories, listen below to our daily podcast PEOPLE Every Day.

"[Hayley] said hi and then I asked, 'Are there cows on the moon?' " Matthew recalls. "There were no animals [on the moon], but there was a [plush] dog in the spaceship."

The "cool" experience makes him want to travel to space and float upside-down one day, just like Arceneaux did while she answered questions and dodged "Jude," the golden retriever plush dog floating in zero gravity.

Matthew, a 6 year old boy battling cancer at St Jude Childrens Hospital
Matthew, a 6 year old boy battling cancer at St Jude Childrens Hospital

St Jude Children's Hospital Matthew with a Hayley Arceneaux cutout at St. Jude

RELATED: Hayley Arceneaux Climbs Mt. Rainier with Prosthesis in Leg: 'Daunting'

It was a full-circle moment for Arceneaux, who works as a Physician Assistant at St. Jude, the same hospital where she beat cancer at the age of 10. Now she's making history as the youngest American, the first person with a prosthesis and the first pediatric cancer survivor to ever orbit Earth — proving "that the sky's not the limit," her childhood surgeon, Dr. Mike Neel, told PEOPLE hours before the Inspiration4 launch at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Wednesday.

Matthew's parents, Leslie and Matthew, were moved by the once-in-a-lifetime video call, which comes as their son is going through chemotherapy treatment.

"To us, it's an inspiration to see that Hayley has made it. And that gives you the light at the end of the tunnel [to know] he's going to be just fine," says dad Matthew. "When everybody else associates cancer with the bad things, we're blessed to see the positive things."

Matthew, a 6 year old boy battling cancer at St Jude Childrens Hospital
Matthew, a 6 year old boy battling cancer at St Jude Childrens Hospital

St Jude Children's Hospital 6-year-old Matthew

RELATED: Why Inspiration4's Hayley Arceneaux Is 'Calm and Excited' Before SpaceX Launch

"It's just amazing how Hayley has strived and never stopped, even with the cancer... that's like Matthew, he never stops," adds his dad. "He's going to be okay and she sets the example for him to see that."

Notes Leslie: "He's going to be able to tell this story, just like her."

Inspiration4 is the brainchild of Isaacman, the 38-year-old billionaire and Shift4 Payments CEO who paid SpaceX for the out-of-this world journey and then kicked off a $200 million fundraising campaign to benefit the life-saving work of St. Jude. He gave the first $100 million, and now Inspiration4 fans are paying it forward with donations of their own.

the Inspiration4 crew (L-R) Jared Isaacman, Hayley Arceneaux, Sian Proctor and Chris Sembroski pose for a photo.
the Inspiration4 crew (L-R) Jared Isaacman, Hayley Arceneaux, Sian Proctor and Chris Sembroski pose for a photo.

JOHN KRAUS/© 2021 Inspiration4 2021/Netflix/AFP via Getty Inspiration4 crew (L-R): Jared Isaacman, Hayley Arceneaux, Sian Proctor and Chris Sembroski

"We do firmly believe that there is going to be a world, 50 or 100 years from now, where people are going to be jumping in their rockets like the Jetsons, and you're going to have families bouncing around on the moon with their kids at a lunar base," Isaacman said.

"If we can accomplish all of that," he added, "we sure as heck better tackle childhood cancer along the way."

After Isaacman — an accomplished pilot — sealed the deal with SpaceX, he and St. Jude set out to find three additional crew members: Arceneaux was chosen to represent the St. Jude community, while geoscientist and artist Dr. Sian Proctor, 51, won a competition thanks to her "Space2Inspire" life's work, and data engineer Christopher Sembroski, 41, won a raffle that had been advertised on the Super Bowl.

RELATED VIDEO: SpaceX Launches Inspiration4, World's First All-Civilian Crew to Orbit Earth

Together they are the first all-civilian astronauts to orbit the earth, and Proctor is the first Black woman to serve as a pilot in space, plus the fourth Black woman to travel to space.

"It's really special for me to hold that title," she said.

"I have this opportunity to not only accomplish my dream," Proctor added, "but also inspire the next generation of women of color and girls of color — and really get them to think about reaching for the stars."

Jared Isaacman, Hayley Arceneaux, Sian Proctor and Chris Sembroski Inspiration4 crew
Jared Isaacman, Hayley Arceneaux, Sian Proctor and Chris Sembroski Inspiration4 crew

JOHN KRAUS/© 2021 Inspiration4 2021/Netflix/AFP via Getty The Inspiration4 crew (L-R): Jared Isaacman, Dr. Sian Proctor, Hayley Arceneaux and Chris Sembroski

The group is expected to go higher into space than anyone's gone in nearly 15 years before returning to Earth on Saturday.

"I recognize that I'm getting to do something almost no one else gets to do," Arceneaux wrote in her final PEOPLE diary before takeoff, "and for me it's my duty to share the experiences with the world."

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