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Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void Hardcover – August 2, 2010
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“This is the kind of smart, smirky stuff that Roach does so well.” (Geoff Nicholson - San Francisco Chronicle)
“Cool answers to questions about the void you didn’t even know you had.” (People)
“An utterly fascinating account, made all the more entertaining by the author’s ever-amused tone.” (BookPage)
“An impish and adventurous writer with a gleefully inquisitive mind and stand-up comic’s timing.” (Booklist)
“The author’s writing comes across as reportorial, but with a clear sense of humor; even the footnotes are used to both informational and comedic effect.” (Time Out New York)
“Hilarious.” (The New York Times Book Review)
“A delightful, illuminating grab bag of space-flight curiosities.” (Kirkus Reviews)
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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
A fantastically engaging, smart and funny look into space, NASA, research and our history with space travel. I highly recommend this memorable book.Published 5 days ago by Robin Tung
Mary Roach's writing is witty and knowledgeable. In this book about the human element in space travel, she has done a tremendous amount of research to reveal the hidden side of the... Read morePublished 14 days ago by D. Verner
What is it about Mary Roach that makes me laugh so much? She is incredibly laugh-out-loud funny! This book answers many questions, more than you'd ever think to ask, and finally... Read morePublished 22 days ago by E. Clark
The science was good, and I enjoyed that part. The author got side tracked with too many juvenile discussions of flatus, etc.Published 24 days ago by Anonymous
Bought it for my husband who never read it (although he loves the space program).Published 1 month ago by Amazon Customer
Enjoyed learning about space travel. Subject covered thoroughly. Story removes much of the glamour but leaves the awe quotient. Makes you realize how unique some humans are.Published 1 month ago by Seattle Sue
If you are a NASA / space program fan and can handle lots of discussions about human bodily functions, this is an entertaining read. Read morePublished 1 month ago by strix275
What a fabulous book on the space program. So many of my questions where answered. So many amazing "no way" moments. Read morePublished 1 month ago by M. Olson