In August 2021, 28 year-old Sarafina Nance will participate in HI-SEAS, a Mars simulation run by the International MoonBase Alliance (IMA). While separate from NASA, her mission will feature collaboration with NASA Goddard, and for two weeks she will live in a habitat in Mauna Loa, Hawai'i that's designed to mimic the experience of living on Mars.
“My crew is six people and we basically live like we're on Mars for two weeks. So that includes wearing space suits every time we leave the habitat,” Nance tells Yahoo Life."It's really trying to simulate as much of living on Mars as possible to prepare astronauts in the future."
Pushing her body to its physical limits has been important to Nance, who previously chronicled her own health journey on social media. At 23, her father was diagnosed with metastatic prostate cancer, which inspired Nance to get genetic testing. Her results revealed that she was positive for the BRCA two genetic mutation, which gave her an 87% lifetime risk of breast cancer and 30% risk of ovarian cancer.
“When I was 26, I got my preventative double mastectomy to decrease my risk from 87% to less than 5%. I had three surgeries in one year, and my last one was almost exactly a year ago,” says Nance.
The astrophysicist calls her diagnosis "anxiety-producing," and says she chose to document her journey in hopes of empowering others to advocate for their own health. Today, Nance is looking to the future, and beyond.
“I feel really, really lucky to have this opportunity to be able to pursue my dreams, especially after something that made me uncertain whether I would ever be able to do something like this,” says Nance. “I finally feel like I am physically in a good enough spot to be able to push my body and push my mind, and and see sort of what I'm capable of doing.”