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Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void

by
3.94  ·  Rating details ·  42,315 Ratings  ·  4,024 Reviews
The best-selling author of Stiff and Bonk explores the irresistibly strange universe of space travel and life without gravity.

Space is a world devoid of the things we need to live and thrive: air, gravity, hot showers, fresh produce, privacy, beer. Space exploration is in some ways an exploration of what it means to be human. How much can a person give up? How much weirdn
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Hardcover, 334 pages
Published August 2nd 2010 by W. W. Norton & Company
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Msl Definitely worth reading. Mary Roach offers a interesting behind the scenes view of the world of space astronauts along with bits of unknown trivia. I…moreDefinitely worth reading. Mary Roach offers a interesting behind the scenes view of the world of space astronauts along with bits of unknown trivia. I found it humorous, insightful, and a bit quirky. Would read again.(less)
Morgan LaRue Yes, definitely not for young children (although they'd probably find the how-to-poop-in-space section hilarious).

Community Reviews

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Will Byrnes
Aug 20, 2010 rated it really liked it
Maybe she could have titled the book The Right Stiff.

I needed to have tissues handy while reading Mary Roach’s latest. No, it is not because it made me sad, but because I was laughing so hard my eyes were gushing. Mary Roach has had that effect on me before. I have read two of her books. Stiff and Spook are greatly entertaining. She has a sense of humor that encompasses a pre-adolescent affinity for the scatological. OK, she likes fart jokes. Blast off, Mary.

She has an appreciation for the abs
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Stephen
Space…the final frontier:
space1v2
where intrepid heroes break free from the mortal bonds of Mother Earth to experience such singular marvels as:

1. Fecal popcorning (definition forthcoming);
2. Condom-shaped urinal devices (with different sizes for, um, different sizes);
3. Weightless Flight Regurgitation Phenomenon (Hint: turns out gravity is a vital part of both swallowing food and keeping it locked down in the tummy);
4. The pleasures, subject to NASA regulations, of Zero-G copulation; and
5. The breat
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Kemper
Aug 03, 2010 rated it really liked it
I’m a big space geek and have spent countless hours reading or watching documentaries about manned space flight. I’ve seen a space shuttle launch and been through the Kennedy Space Center a couple of times. I went and saw the traveling exhibit of Gus Grissom’s capsule that was retrieved from the ocean floor and refurbished. So I thought I knew something about NASA and astronauts.

However, I’d never heard the phrase 'fecal popcorning' before.

These are the kind of tidbits you get in Packing for Mar
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Ana
Jun 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
Martians eagerly awaiting our arrival!

 photo 2b9183bb6db2b3bc125c08b3b38f2eb5_zpsbbte0sew.jpg

Don't they look thrilled?

 photo marslC4B1larC4B1ntepkisi_zpsfovoj5q9.jpg

I have doubts this will ever happen. I don't see us going to Mars anytime soon. There are too many issues. The odds are stacked against us. But who knows what the future brings? One day our great-great-great-grandchildren might live on Mars. Now my question is, what happens when humans destroy Mars? Where do we fail explore next?

For all you Mars enthusiasts out there, check out this documentary- The Big Think, Should We Go to Mar
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Petra X
Dec 28, 2010 rated it really liked it
Note: the dolphin-sex thing appears to be a hoax. Shame that. I like the idea of space sex having to be a threesome.

Why the Space Program Costs so Much. Because its run by a load of backward-thinking dickheads, contrary to what you might think.

Mary Roach seems to have an obsession with poo. I did actually want to know about toilet facilities in space, but not two-chapters worth of knowledge. Similarly a chapter about sex, although no-one apart from one Russian wanker (literally) actually admits
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Greta
Sep 21, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

 photo 03A4BAAE-DA26-47DD-8669-6243FEB91B92.jpg

This was a fascinating trip. Really.
I learned a lot about seals, black bears, dolphins, rats, dogs and chimps.

En route I also learned something about astronauts and their way of life in space.
And this kind of life is not at all what I had imagined even in my wildest dreams.
Let me warn you, if you've ever fantasized about taking a vacation in space, you should read this book first.

The comfort in a space hotel is basic, even if you paid billions of dollars for a 5-twinkling-star hotel.
If yo
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Richard Derus
Sep 16, 2010 rated it really liked it
Rating: 4.5* of five

The Publisher Says: Space is a world devoid of the things we need to live and thrive: air, gravity, hot showers, fresh produce, privacy, beer. Space exploration is in some ways an exploration of what it means to be human. How much can a person give up? How much weirdness can they take? What happens to you when you can’t walk for a year? have sex? smell flowers? What happens if you vomit in your helmet during a space walk? Is it possible for the human body to survive a bailout
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Carol.
Mar 15, 2011 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: people looking for light sciencey reads
Shelves: non-fiction

Roach is well known for her earlier books, Stiff (about human cadavers), Bonk (science and sex) and Spook (the afterlife). In Packing, she takes on the US space program, and how it’s dealt with many of the everyday biological issues we take for granted– such as washing, eating, and urinating. However, willingness to take on the scatological is just part of her hook; she integrates information about the program in general as well as Earth-based research supporting it.

I learned a lot more of the e
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Monica
Fascinating and well considered. Lots of gross facts about conditions in outer space. Space travel does not resemble Star Trek at this time. I don't want to go to Mars personally and I'm traumatized by the concept of the impending voyage at our current level of technology, but I relish the idea of some other poor soul dreamer willing to endure the trip. Listened to on audible narrated by Sandra Burr. I thought she did a good job.

4 Stars

Edited to Add: Listened to the Audio version.
Melki
Nov 03, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I did not expect to be so captivated by this book. After all, I barely paid attention when Neil Armstrong walked on the moon in 1969. I was a very mature seven year old, and I had seen better space "movies" at the local theater.
My interest in the space program remained low while I was growing up. Of course, I watched and cried over the Challenger and Columbia disasters. But otherwise, I was mostly oblivious.
I suppose it was not until Nasa announced that the shuttle flights were coming to an end
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Cassy
There was a rule in my house growing up: no talking about “bodily functions”. When my older sister would start going on about how she clogged the toilet or an episode of smelly burps, my very Southern mother would intervene. “Jill, there will no discussion of bodily functions at this dinner table. Would anyone like more peach cobbler?”

Mary Roach would make an interesting dinner guest at my parents’ house. Her book is overflowing with bodily functions: vomit, body odor, pooping/peeing, and sex i
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Trevor
Sep 23, 2010 rated it really liked it
I’ve read two other Roach books and have really loved them. They tick all of the boxes – they are witty, wise, fascinatingly interesting and written by someone with an eye that unfailingly spots human foibles. The beauty of her writing is that rather than pointing and laughing, she embrace our foibles and makes us fell all the more human because of them.

Do you know that feeling you get when you read someone and think, ‘God, I would really love to meet you, just to listen to you talk?’ Well, Ms
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David
Jan 22, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: humor, science, audiobook
There's a bit of space science in this book, but it's mostly a humorous, immensely scatalogical romp through the space program. By reading this book, you will gain a treasure trove of trivia, ranging from astronaut food, defecation, odors, nausea, to the earliest, non-human astronauts who were shot up into space on rockets. You will learn the real reason why women were not enlisted as astronauts in the early days of NASA, which turns out to be the exact same reason why Russians did include women ...more
Glitterbomb
**This review contains profanity and dick and fart jokes.**

I've been trying to write this review for what feels like hours now (Its actually been about 10 minutes). It's not that I didn't take notes, because I did, lots and lots of notes. This... thing... sitting next to me resembles a pile of unicorn vomit, rather than a book, with the amount of post-its stuck to it (its very colourful and pretty). I was going to take a picture, but I'm not sure I want this floating around on the internet for a
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Emily (Books with Emily Fox)
If you're looking for a fun non-fiction about space/astronauts I would recommend it!

With that said, be warned that pooping in space is a big problem and you'll learn about it in length!
Stephanie *Very Stable Genius*
When I was in the sixth grade we had a science project. I remember this well, we had to learn all about rockets and space travel. When we were to reach the end of all the information, we were going to have a test on what we learned.

Nothing new there right? Oh but there was……

The person who had the highest grade on the test was to be the one to “launch” a rocket, you know, the model rockets made from cardboard with a built in parachute for its descent…the ones that you would sometimes put a toad
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Heather K (dentist in my spare time)


Love Mary Roach, but I didn't find this as entertaining as some of her other books. I got a few fun factoids to share with my family, so I guess that's a win.
Crystal Starr Light
Bullet Review:

Huh. Not quite what I was expecting - more a "look at all these weird things in space" than anything close to a checklist of things necessary for a Mars mission. And those weird things seem to focus A LOT on bodily functions.

I wish we spent more time on how bad the food was, how hard it would be to store enough food and oxygen and more about the psychology of long duration flights. And less time on space poos.

Full Review:

I will try to do a full review, though I don't really know if
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Laurie Notaro
Feb 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I will read anything by Mary Roach. Of course, my favorite parts in this book were about farting and pooping in a space suit. Hilarious.
Trudi
3.5 stars

***I'm reposting this review in honor of Neil Armstrong (August 5, 1930 – August 25, 2012) who died today at the age of 82.
"That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind." --Neil Armstrong
Well...that was...interesting. This book is so thoroughly researched. The amount of painstaking detail used to describe the epic sublime of space right down to the microscopic level of doing your "business" in zero gravity is impressive to say the least. As a side-effect though, I did f
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Brandon
I've always maintained a passing interest in space travel and with my burgeoning love of Sci-Fi starting to develop, I thought that this was the right book to pick up. With Packing for Mars, Mary Roach takes the reader on a journey through the bizarre history of space travel and the toll it takes on the human body and psyche.

It turns out that my passing interest in space travel was just that - a passing interest. I found myself constantly drifting off during chapters and having to rewind over a
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Sanaa
Apr 26, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2015-read
[4 Stars] This book was incredibly fascinating although a bit disturbing from time to time. You get to know some of the details about all of the strange things that accompany thoughts of space travel: how to you poop in space, what is the screening process like for astronauts, food in space, what kind of strange experiments and tests must be employed to test things for space travel, chimps in space, and so much more. I thoroughly enjoyed it even though I thought it was a bit slow. I wish the boo ...more
Becky
When you think about space travel and exploration, nobody ever thinks about the poop bags.

This book was interesting and eye-opening about a lot of the mundane minutiae of going into space, made (slightly) less mundane by Mary Roach's writing about it, but what really interested me was all of the ways that gravity allows us to live - and what happens to us when gravity is taken out of the equation.

This book covers pretty much everything from physiological results of high G pressures and impacts
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Jim
Feb 01, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Wow! An excellent piece of very readable research of our journey into space & all the considerations for a trip to Mars in, hopefully, 2030. As usual, Roach captured the human side & presented it with plenty of humor.

The research had to be difficult for her in many cases. NASA needs publicity to stay funded, but any negative publicity can hurt them immensely, especially since Congress & the VP oversee them. (LBJ basically squashed any females in space for years with a pen stroke.) Co
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Becky
I have an awkward relationship with Mary Roach. I find her humor forced, blatant, and poorly timed and so it always falls flat to me. I realize that a lot of people really appreciate her humor, but it just doesn’t click for me. Actually, I bet I think she was really funny if I heard her talk, because potty humor IS my type of humor, but it just doesn’t seem to translate for me in her books.

That said, she researches these absolutely fascinating topics from angles that no one else would, and I tot
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Sesana
Mar 25, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, science
Mary Roach has made quite a career writing quirky, irreverent books on some of the weirder corners of science. She's covered corpses, the afterlife, sex, and now space. So all the cool subjects. As it turns out, space exploration is a rich and varied subject. Every aspect of life in space has to be carefully, exhaustively researched beforehand, after all. Right down to, ahem, elimination procedures. In the hands of another writer, all of this detail might become overwhelming, or boring, maybe ki ...more
Jackie "the Librarian"
This book is funny, gross, and fascinating, and I am SO not suited to be an astronaut! If YOU want to be an astronaut, you’d better have a strong stomach and a big tolerance for grossness in general.
I had NO IDEA a book about travel in space would read like a scene from a Judd Apatow movie, but it turns out human waste of many varieties is a big issue for NASA. Mary Roach tells us about how space agencies try to prepare astronauts for space travel, and study how the trainees react, and she goes
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Megan Baxter
Jun 27, 2014 rated it really liked it
I generally quite enjoy Mary Roach's books, even though sometimes they are too much information to be read while eating. (Stiff) So when I saw this one, about one of my favourite things in the world, space travel, I was excited. Even more so since I'm running a roleplaying game set on Mars right now, although much further along than the first tentative preparations Roach is talking about here.

Note: The rest of this review has been withdrawn due to the changes in Goodreads policy and enforcement.
...more
Sonja Arlow
India’s first Mars mission, scheduled for Nov 2014 will cost LESS than the budget of the space film Gravity.

After having finished this book I had to read that above statement a few times for it to really sink in. Either space travel has gotten vastly cheaper or Hollywood has finally gone nuts.

This book covers everything a layperson would ever want to know about space travel and a host of things you would have preferred not to know. No longer does bravery and a guts n glory attitude maketh an ast
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Michael
Aug 12, 2010 rated it really liked it
Science fiction movies and novels dealing with long exploration missions to deep space rarely deal with the complexities of our bodies surviving during the long journey through space.

Or as the old question asks, "Where does Captain Kirk go to the bathroom?"

Mary Roach's "Packing for Mars" not only looks at where Kirk would go, but how such a thing would be possible. It also looks at a lot of other questions that scientists and NASA have to and have addressed during humanity's quest to explore spa
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7,116 followers
Mary Roach is the author of the New York Times bestsellers STIFF: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers; GULP: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal, PACKING FOR MARS: The Curious Science of Life in the Void; and BONK: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex.

Her most recent book, GRUNT: The Curious Science of Humans at War, is out in June 2016.

Mary has written for National Geographic, Wired, Discover
...more
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“Yes, the money could be better spent on Earth. But would it? Since when has money saved by government redlining been spent on education and cancer research? It is always squandered. Let's squander some on Mars. Let's go out and play.” 37 likes
“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. You and your fluctuating metabolism, your puny memory, your frame that comes in a million different configurations. You are unpredictable. You're inconstant. You take weeks to fix. The engineer must worry about the water and oxygen and food you'll need in space, about how much extra fuel it will take to launch your shrimp cocktail and irradiated beef tacos. A solar cell or a thruster nozzle is stable and undemanding. It does not excrete or panic or fall in love with the mission commander. It has no ego. Its structural elements don't start to break down without gravity, and it works just fine without sleep.

To me, you are the best thing to happen to rocket science. The human being is the machine that makes the whole endeavor so endlessly intriguing.”
24 likes
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