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Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void Paperback – April 4, 2011
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Amazon Best Books of the Month, August 2010: With her wry humor and inextinguishable curiosity, Mary Roach has crafted her own quirky niche in the somewhat staid world of science writing, showing no fear (or shame) in the face of cadavers, ectoplasm, or sex. In Packing for Mars, Roach tackles the strange science of space travel, and the psychology, technology, and politics that go into sending a crew into orbit. Roach is unfailingly inquisitive (Why is it impolite for astronauts to float upside down during conversations? Just how smelly does a spacecraft get after a two week mission?), and she eagerly seeks out the stories that don't make it onto NASA's website--from SPCA-certified space suits for chimps, to the trial-and-error approach to crafting menus during the space program's early years (when the chefs are former livestock veterinarians, taste isn't high on the priority list). Packing for Mars is a book for grownups who still secretly dream of being astronauts, and Roach lives it up on their behalf--weightless in a C-9 aircraft, she just can't resist the opportunity to go "Supermanning" around the cabin. Her zeal for discovery, combined with her love of the absurd, amazing, and stranger-than-fiction, make Packing for Mars an uproarious trip into the world of space travel. --Lynette Mong
--This text refers to the Audio CD edition.
From Publishers Weekly
Roach explores the quotidian aspects of space travel for humans with her usual aplomb. She reveals the everyday concerns and aspects--physiological, psychological, and emotional--of long-term space immersion. Sandra Burr proves a great complement to Roach's prose. Her character voices are distinct, and she executes the jargon and technical aspects of space life with a clear and emphatic tone, helping listeners with more complicated passages. She has a matter-of-fact tone with a hint of a wry smile when she explains, say, sex in space, and she is unfailingly clear and affable. A Norton hardcover. (Aug.) (c)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
Space travel has always fascinated me and the idea of moving to Mars permanently, so I was especially excited about this book.
I love this book - but if she decided to write about mouse droppings, car parts, or the history of nails, I would grab those books too.
But the best part is Roach herself. Her wit and unabashed curiosity are in plain sight, boldly going where decorum and press releases dare not go. There's just enough science here to give the layman an idea of what's going on--and presenting it in clear terms--without overwhelming him with forensic detail. She interviews astronauts and scientists, historians and charlatans, and when research isn't enough, she bravely participates in experiments (flying aboard a C-9, drinking recycled urine). Despite being confronted with the unpleasant facts of space travel, Roach doesn't flinch. She satisfies our curiosity while satisfying her own.
Roach certainly did her homework - she snags a ride on the “vomit comet” to experience zero-G first hand, and travels to remote outposts to see how astronauts might live on Mars. The book is carefully researched, and she frequently peppers the text with amusing footnotes and details she discovered along the way. It’s a good read if you’re not squeamish.
A note about the audio edition: Roach is a talented public speaker, so it's really unfortunate she doesn’t read her own book. The “narrator’s” harsh, school-marm voice unfortunately drains much of the humor and wit from Roach’s text. I also wish the audio book came packaged on an MP3 disk. I had to manually rip and copy onto one myself, because "stop to change the disk" doesn't work while you're driving.
I felt misled by this book's title. Only the last chapter was about Mars. The rest was a history of the early space program and near-Earth and lunar missions. While it was interesting in parts, I was looking for an in depth factual accounting of the challenges of putting humans onto the Martian surface to test survival technologies for exploration and eventual colonization. Something along the lines of the movie "The Martian." Disappointing.