Jinksb's Reviews > Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void

Packing for Mars by Mary Roach
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Jun 05, 2011

really liked it
Read in June, 2011

I want to hang out with Mary Roach. She picks fascinating topics for her books: Corpses. (Stiff) Sex. (Bonk) Ghosts.(Spook) She comes up with the weirdest source material in her research, and she has a wacky sense of humor. Irreverent. Punning. And I think she has as much fun writing her books as her readers do reading them.

Okay, back to "Packing for Mars." Everybody has wondered about certain things in space. (Just not everybody will admit it.) How does the Space Station toilet work? Have astronauts really "done it" in space? What would happen if you got space-sick and barfed in your suit on a space walk? Well, Mary Roach has got you covered. (Covered with the answers, not covered with barf.) The answers to all of the above and more await. And she's backed them up with research papers (really weird ones - I mean, who writes something like "Simulated Human Feces for Testing Human Waste Processing Technologies in Space Systems?"), oral histories from astronauts, and interviews with experts, past and present.

In addition to addressing the questions of the average 9-year-old boy (or immature adult), she also explores how astronaut selection works (want to be one of Japan's? Practice folding cranes. Lots of them.), why space exploration equipment costs so darn much (did you know fuses don't "fuse" in zero-g? NASA found out by flying them on the "vomit comet."), and why it takes so long to plan a mission to Mars (how many things can go wrong with a simple half-day simulated "explore and rendezvous" session?). You'll finish the book with a better understanding of how much hard work and research it takes to get those guys and gals up in space. And, surprisingly, how being an astronaut is pretty much the worst job in the world. And the best.

So, if you happen to know Mary Roach, please tell her I want to buy her a drink. And hang with her. I don't mean that in a stalker-y way. I'm pretty harmless, really.
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