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

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3.94  ·  Rating details ·  44,222 ratings  ·  4,160 reviews
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 yo ...more
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).

Community Reviews

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3.94  · 
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 ·  44,222 ratings  ·  4,160 reviews


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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
...more
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
...more
Kemper
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
...more
Ana O
Jun 07, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Petra Eggs
Dec 28, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
carol.
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
...more
Greta
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.
If yo
...more
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
...more
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  ·  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
...more
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
...more
Bradley
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
...more
Trevor
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
...more
David
Jan 22, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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!
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
...more
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
...more
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
...more
Trish
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
...more
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.
HBalikov
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,
...more
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
...more
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
...more
Sanaa
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
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
...more
verbava
Mar 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: on-human-beings
дуже кумедно уявляти історію пошуку в браузері мері роуч. зате про вміст її холодильника добре знає її чоловік, невинна душа.

із цієї чудової книжки про астронавтів можна, зокрема, дізнатися про психіатричні інновації хіх століття; яка поза найбезпечніша, якщо ви опинилися в ліфті, що падає; чому витримані сири пахнуть шкарпетками; як біг допомагає від ламкості кісток; чому в розважальному секторі рідше використовують дельфінів-хлопчиків (гаразд, тут я розкажу: бо вони можуть пенісом ухопити за н
...more
Jim
Feb 01, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
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
...more
Sesana
Mar 25, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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7,687 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
“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.”
27 likes
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