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

3.94  ·  Rating details ·  55,410 ratings  ·  4,850 reviews
The best-selling author of Stiff and Bonk explores the irresistibly strange universe of space travel and life without gravity. From the Space Shuttle training toilet to a crash test of NASA’s new space capsule, Mary Roach takes us on the surreally entertaining trip into the science of life in space and space on Earth.
Paperback, 334 pages
Published April 4th 2011 by W. W. Norton Company (first published August 2nd 2010)
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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).…moreYes, definitely not for young children (although they'd probably find the how-to-poop-in-space section hilarious).(less)

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Will Byrnes
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
Space…the final frontier:
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 br
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
Mar 15, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Petra in 4 days may have a bf fingers crossed
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
Greta G
Sep 21, 2016 rated it really liked it

 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.
Diane S ☔
Oct 28, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 5000-2019
3.5 I recently read Rocket Men: The Daring Odyssey of Apollo 8 and the Astronauts Who Made Man's First Journey to the Moon, and so some of the things in this book were also in the former. In this one, Mary Roach is much more descriptive in exactly what this astronauts go through before and during a flight. The problems that had to be solved even before space travel was considered. Effects of gravity on breathing, on bones and other bodily functions. Experiments undertaken, results, adjustments.

Oct 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
This was a fun read, lots of information and odd (sometimes disgusting in the 'don't eat while reading' way) facts. Fun facts about space travel, things that happen(ed) on earth and up there, with footnotes here and there. There is a timeline (1949-2003) and a bibliography at the end.

Things included include who gets in, on isolation and confinement, keeping your sanity, lack of gravity, throwing up, crash tests, animals used (Albert, Ham, Enos and others not named), plans of travel to Mars, on w
Richard Derus
Sep 16, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Mary Roach is a funny woman. I guess that's what you get when no subject is taboo and she has the charm to pull it all off. :)

What does she pull off? A full, scientifically accurate look at the little stuff in life. Astronauts living in space was rather more the focus. That's okay. We're not quite ready to go to Mars. But at least we're ready to drink our pee! Yay!

Seriously though, beyond the last quarter of the book being devoted to floating poo in a very fun and educational way, the whole book
Nov 03, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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.
David Rubenstein
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
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
**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
Sep 23, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"In a memoir, astronaut Michael Collins relates a story of a physician back in the Apollo era who recommended regular masturbation on long missions, lest astronauts develop prostate infections...Cosmonaut Alexandr Laveikin told me he too had heard that lengthy abstinence could cause prostate infections, but that the space agency pretends the issue doesn't exist. "It's up to yourself how you will deal with it. But everybody is doing it, everybody understands. It's nothing. My friends ask me, 'How ...more
Emily (Books with Emily Fox)
Jul 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
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 *Eff your feelings*
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
Apr 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, science, humor
“Is he leaking badly from anything major?“

In this book Mary Roach tells us about the challenges of space travel and the extensive research that is done before humans are sent into space.

And she caused sustained eyeleak (of the good kind) for this reader, because she’s going places other writers seldom dare to go. Telling the stories other writers would likely gloss over and NASA would certainly prefer to stay a private matter.

Life in the void provides many unique challenges. But there are a few
Sep 21, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I took my time going through Mary Roach's rap on what it means to be out beyond the Earth's surface.
NASA and the Russians have been spending loads of time and money since the 1950's to prepare and put humans in orbit and beyond. I started reading partially because I wanted a different perspective than the recent bestseller and movie, The Martian, would provide. Roach writes that she was inspired to "think about a trip to Mars and what it would be like to spend two years trapped inside sterile,
Claire Fuller
Oh, this is such fun. Mary Roach is probing, tenacious, inquisitive, and well, just funny. The subtitle is 'The Curious Science of Life in Space' and she goes into the greatest detail about how Japan has potential astronauts making 1000 paper cranes to decide which of them will go into space; what happens if you vomit in your spacesuit; sex in space - who's done it; going to the bathroom in space - as American's like to say - even if the bathroom is barely a curtain around a rather small toilet; ...more
Crystal Starr Light
Aug 18, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: science, non-fiction
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
Mar 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is my second book by this author and once again she has proven that she has a great sense of humour. The other book I've read was about human cadavers and it was funny to see a short chapter dedicated to cadavers needed here, too.

The book, as the title suggests, is about space exploration - the history including Moon landings, the science behind anything from heat shielding to toilets, the process with which astronauts are tested and chosen, atronauts' training. There are even some comments
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.
Laurie Notaro
Feb 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
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
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
So I learned about pooping in zero gravity. That was the highlight of this book for me, though there were many other fascinating things I learned, as well. But what could possibly beat space poop?

Roach tackles the worklife of an astronaut as well as the former US/USSR Space Race with her signature depth of research (she watched Russian space porn, people. For SCIENCE!) and humor.
Unfortunately, this is just not a topic I care about.
I love the night skies, I used to be delighted with astronomy b
Apr 26, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
[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
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Mary Roach is a science author who specializes in the bizarre and offbeat; with a body of work ranging from deep-dives on the history of human cadavers to the science of the human anatomy during warfare.

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

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