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Showing 1-10 of 385 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 583 reviews
on July 7, 2011
This is a relatively short, but highly educational and entertaining look at many of the aspects of space travel that you may have wondered about, but were never able to find the answer to.

For example, does hygiene become an issue when two men are in a very tightly confined area for two weeks, wearing a space suit, without the ability to bathe? How are liquid and solid wastes captured and recycled or disposed of in a space flight? Sex in space? Motion sickness and the implications of regurgitating in a space helmet. The physics of a reentering space shuttle disintegrating at a speed of Mach 17. These questions and many others are covered in this whimsical little work. Good for about six hours of entertainment, this will not win any literary awards, but if you have a sense of humor and a morbid curiosity, you'll find this a worthwhile read.
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on March 19, 2017
Topics were interesting but the writing style was dry and lackluster. Had to force myself to finish it after 2/3rds of the way through.
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VINE VOICEon March 21, 2013
You don't have to be a science nerd to enjoy this book about NASA and the space program. I admit I'm a geek and I love this stuff but this really is a book for all audiences. A few years ago when I saw Mary Roach on John Stewart's Daily Show talking about her (at the time) new book, Packing for Mars, she was so entertaining and funny that I thought I've got to read this book.

The book is not about Mars. I kept wondering when we were going to get to Mars. A few chapters in it hit me, the title is just a metaphor for what needs to be done to get into space. And boy do we find out. The author spent hours pouring through old flight transcripts, interviewing astronauts and NASA personnel and even going for a ride into weightlessness on the Vomit Comet, a low orbital flight that provides a nearly weightless environment in which to train astronauts and conduct research. The result is a hilarious look at the training and research for space travel. She asks the questions that you want to know the answers to but won't find in any Science magazine or NASA publication.

Each chapter explores a different aspect of planning for space going back to the earliest mission through today on the International Space Station. Want to know how that space station toilet works and how they designed and tested it? Ummm, the training toilet has a camera in it. And bathroom breaks need to be scheduled because there's no gravity and therefore no urge! And what did they do for a toilet on the Apollo and earlier missions and how bad did that space capsule smell after two weeks? Is it possible to have sex in space? Which foods can be brought on board and why are crumbs bad?

It's not all bathroom jokes, there are also serious topics such as how astronauts are chosen for the program, a discussion of the psychological studies on long periods of isolation and the effects of weightlessness on the health of the astronauts. She also relates some strange but true stories and debunks a few well know myths.

Interesting, informative and laugh-out-loud funny this is a book I highly recommend.
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on July 22, 2017
I love Mary's books and this one is my favorite so far! I was so bummed out once it was over! I wanted so much more. I laughed so hard I learned so much! I'm telling everyone to read this!
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on December 5, 2016
Mary Roach is probably my favorite author, so my review may be biased. But it was this book that put her over the edge and made her my favorite. It is packed full of great stories from space and the brilliant men and women who help build all of the crazy things that it takes to get people to space.

It's funny and smart and will definitely give you interesting little trivia to use at the watercooler/cocktail party. A great read for science/space geeks and for people just looking for an interesting and entertaining read.
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VINE VOICEon July 7, 2012
In Packing for Mars, Mary Roach takes a look at the less heroic aspects of manned space flight, considering such topics as what happens to shed skin particles when an astronaut doesn't bathe for weeks, the hazards of vomiting in one's helmet during a space walk, and, most memorably, the logistics of zero-gravity defecation. Some of the topics covered are less interesting than these--a history of chimps in space, for example, and simulated Martian traverses on Canada's Devon Island. That's all well and good, but most readers are likely to forget about simian heroics pretty quickly and leave the book instead with a healthy appreciation of gravity-fed toilets. Roach certainly has an eye for arresting topics--her Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers was fantastic (my review)--and she writes well about them. The only problem I had this time out is that her narrative is slowed by the constant introductions of interviewees. A lot of people are thrown at us, their names and positions, and eventually I just stopped paying attention to who any of them were. I suppose if you're structuring the book as she has, describing the interview process, there's no way of getting around the intros, but perhaps it could be structured differently to avoid their becoming tedious.

-- Debra Hamel
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on May 2, 2016
Informative and funny. This book contains lots of interesting information about space travel, and it is funny as well. I am still laughing about the hostile turd that escaped its confines and confronted the astronauts on one of the Apollo flights. Subjects include weightlessness, making poo in space; making urine in space; space food (astronaut poo may be on future menus), animals in space and other fun stuff that are, for the most part, told in a serious factual, but nonetheless entertaining fashion. If you want to learn about space travel and have some fun while doing it, read this book.
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VINE VOICEon March 6, 2013
This is a funny, entertaining, and scientifically literate introduction to the life of an astronaut, or more precisely, the way to keep an astronaut alive and well. Far from the romantic ideal of a star trek adventure, life in space has often been uncomfortable, disorienting and just plain boring. I enjoyed reading as Ms. Roach tagged along in parabolic flight (which gives a temporary sense of weightlessness), rode in Tom Cruise's stunt plane (did she really hurl her lunch into his chiseled face?), and After reading this book, I had a much understanding of the technical details of astronaut life, which adds to my fascination with space travel, but makes me happy that I never actually got on board.

Some parts of this book are not for the faint of stomach. Skip chapter six if you are the least bit susceptible to suggestions of nausea. There she dwells on the topic to the point of obsession. I once viewed a lecture on the subject by an anesthesiologist, wherein he rattled off over a dozen silly euphemisms for the act of losing your lunch, at which point the crowd had grown abnormally silent, except for a few anesthesiologists who were still laughing. Ms. Roach, I suspect, would be one of them. This is not a chapter to dwell upon.

The author writes well, with a slightly excessive use of footnotes, which are required reading, because that is where a lot of the humor resides. I confess that I love the way Ms. Roach writes, and consider her a kindred spirit, but I admit that this is not for everyone. If you are a nerd, in any slight degree, or full on, this is a book that you will treasure. I was going to pass it on to someone, but after reading it, I have to keep it in my personal library. Go buy your own copy.
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on May 24, 2013
Excellent treatment of a complex subject by Mary Roach who can handle some of the macabre aspects of this field with grace, honesty, and aplomb. There was a goodly amount of wry humor and a deliciously rebellious undercurrent that showed persistence, and toughness when dealing with laconic bureaucrats, mush mouthed public officials, forgetful space cowboys, timid mice, and not too open foreign participants. She debunks some of the "hero worship" myths about our space program while showing the hard work, long hours, and B_ _ _ _ _ _ t restrictions that these dedicated professionals underwent and are still undergoing to continue a seriously underfunded program, that is keeping us close to the front of space exploration as many other countries now join in and show "the right stuff". She seems to cover technical details quite well. Her treatment of skin biology, which I know something about, primate behavior under stressful conditions ( don't forget we're primates too), the daunting aspects of zero gravity (little things we take for granted- like taking a shower), the never ending problems of food in space, and the sequel, waste in space, muscle deterioration due to low gravity and many more. One of the many more that almost everyone will be interested in( unless you are dead or comatose) is ...SEX in space.
Read the book or do as I did first, listen to it as an audio book, both versions are worth the effort.
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on April 15, 2013
I admit, I love Mary Roach's style. She picks a scientific subject and runs with it. She gets access to interesting people who have great insight and then asks the questions that excite her - and us. In this book she finds out exactly what we ALL want to know -- how to space travelers feel about the food? What's it like up there? Is there such a thing as Space Madness? How can you poop in front of your co-workers with dignity?

This book is probably the fastest read to date. It's just as packed with info as the previous titles, but somehow I sailed through it quicker (maybe it's the chapters on weightlessness?). I really had fun and I think most people would, too.

The book covers a brief history of the space program in the United States (and a bit about Russia, too) and how every lesson learned is applied to the next missions, including the proposed mission to Mars. Some of the lower rated reviews about this book seemed critical on the point of the Mars mission -- people went in looking for some in-depth details about the Mars expedition, which hasn't been fully planned nor fully made public, so there's a reason why Mary Roach couldn't spell it out in detail. The take-away: if you're looking for hardcore science facts about the Mars Mission, this probably isn't the book for you. If you're interested in WHY certain things work and the overall evolution of the space program, this is a great (and fun and FUNNY) primer.
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