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Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void Paperback – April 4, 2011
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Top Customer Reviews
She begins: "To the rocket scientist, you are a problem. You are the most irritating piece of machinery he or she will ever have to deal with." And then she dives in to explore that human machinery in space and how everything -- procedures, equipment and supplies -- is designed to best serve it.
Through examples from animal simulations and crash-test cadavers, the race-for-space/ shuttle/ space-station projects, and planning Mars-length missions, she examines astronaut selection; the effects of isolation, inactivity and cramped spaces; the spectrum from weightlessness to multiple g-forces; eating, eliminating, and hygiene; and ... well, enough with the listmaking; it hints at dull and anyone who's read Roach knows she doesn't do dull. Instead, she mines excellent and surprising facts about physics and biology -- and what most captures me is her practicality, for example this from a passage about religious observations aboard the international space station: "Zero gravity and a ninety-minute orbital day created so many questions for Muslim astronauts that a [guideline] was drafted. Rather than require [them] to pray five times during each ninety-minute orbit of Earth, they were allowed to go by the twenty-four-hour cycle of the launch location." How to stay oriented toward Mecca at such speed and prostrate oneself in weightlessness are also addressed.Read more ›
I had always been frustrated with NASA's stopping at the moon. "Let's go on to Mars," I would say. "What are you waiting for?"
Mary Roach points out that human biology, sociology, and psychology are the weak links in the chain. The engineering is in place. People are the problem. And these problems are the ones no one much talks about in polite company. What do you do with all the pee? How do you keep from hating the guy or gal next to you when they reek of B.O.? How do you remain sane for nearly two years cramped into a space the size of a small SUV, with all sun and no stars to keep you company?
Mary Roach tells us that there are people uniquely, biologically qualified for such a journey. Evidently the ideal astronaut could well be an African-American who is deaf. This would help with loss of bone density and with not tossing your cookies in space.
These are some of the strange quirks of nature she turns up, which has become her trademark. She asks the questions that few have the audacity to ask, and she asks them of people who generally would not talk, on the record, about such things. I have a feeling that the book might be beautifully accompanied by videos of the astonished faces of her interviewees, trying to cope with questions they have never had to field before.
This is a delightful read. Mary Roach will entertain you and keep you laughing out loud and she maintains your sense of wonder about space. In the end, you will want us to go to Mars more than ever because it represents a conquering of our biological limits even as we conquer our little corner of the cosmos.
I know that most space exploration advocates have been completely frustrated by our lack of progress in colonizing space after the Apollo moon missions, especially the hold up on the trip to Mars. The issue isn't technology, as Roach points out, but the frailty of the human animal. Packing for Mars is a wake up call and a realistic look at what it would take to make that trip: food, social issues, psychological issues, and just the basic "how do you handle the lack of.....?." What does happen to a human who is deprived of familiar earth environments for a long period of time? What do you do with human waste on long trips? Do we really have to drink pee (recycled of course)? What's the impact of not being able to stand or run for more than a year? What is "fecal popcorning"? And on and on.
Packing for Mars isn't a comedy, but there are moments of absolute humor in this read.
Well researched, well written, and terribly interesting Packing for Mars is a terrific read, especially for us space program fanatics and amateur astronomers.
I highly recommend.
Okay...perhaps the aforementioned description of 'Packing for Mars' is hyperbolic and a little bit unfair. To her credit, Ms. Roach seems to have put forth painstaking efforts in her research (she also includes long, ancillary foot notes on almost every page of her book). Moreover, through her emails and interviews with cosmonauts, astronauts, NASA personnel, etc., she manages to coax some rather candid information about seldom discussed issues/problems associated with space travel (e.g., personal hygiene, lavatory practices, sexual activity, etc.) Parts of this book were truly insightful, and from that perspective, I say "kudos" to Ms. Roach for her efforts.
That being said, I have to honestly admit that I was relieved to finally finish the book.
In essence, 'Packing for Mars' is 16 vignette-style chapters that are, at best, tenuously linked in any cohesive fashion.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Mary Roach goes where no other writers dare. She does a thorough, detailed, well documented, and funny investigation of the problems and inconveniences of a multiyear trip to Mars... Read morePublished 4 days ago by Philip C. Keller
I liked this one alright, but it does get a bit long. She also dedicates a lot of pages to poop. I mean I get that we all have to unload on a regular basis and that it gets pretty... Read morePublished 5 days ago by Tretnine
Thus far there has been a Mary Roach book I haven't enjoyed. She makes learning about odd or unexpected subjects entertaining enough that you don't realize you're learning. Read morePublished 6 days ago by r.stormcrowe
If being an astronaut has a dark underbelly, Mary Roach has revealed it in unsparingly hilarious detail. Read morePublished 13 days ago by D. Kollin
A girl I met at the University told me that they were reading it for a class and that everyone loved it. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Aleksandra
As a soon to be budding physician, this makes me want to study space medicine. Also, she is absolutely hilarious.Published 1 month ago by HP
Informative and entertaining book about the nuts, bolts, and human elements involved in preparing astronauts for space travel. I learned a lot.Published 2 months ago by Julia Roberson