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Archive: Other Books > [Poll Ballot] Packing for Mars, by Mary Roach (a happy 4 stars)

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message 1: by KateNZ (new)

KateNZ | 2610 comments I love Mary Roach's engaging way of providing information. As with her other books, with this one she's often focused on details that aren't often covered in other space histories - for instance, being in close confinement with others but not being able to wash, how to go to the loo in space, or the unfortunate effect of certain foods on the digestive system - but there's a lot more underlying detail. For example, I was fascinated by the level of redesign for every single basic element that's needed for zero gravity conditions (and how much cost that adds to a space programme). The psychology of sheer lack of privacy was really well explored. And the history of animals in space was often tragic.

Plus it was all told with her trademark wit. I don't often highlight as I go, but this book was an exception. A few examples:
[discussing the testing methods of Harald von Beckh, an engineer on the V2 rocket programme who lived in Buenos Aires after the role and then worked on the space rockets] ... 'weightlessness posed no grave threat to survival, but he wondered whether it would disorient a pilot, or otherwise compromise his ability to fly a craft. So naturally, von Beckh went out and got some snake-necked turtles. Hydromedusa tectifera are, like postwar Nazis, native to Argentina, Paraguay, and Brazil..."

"If you stumbled upon Building 993 at Ellington Field airport, you would have to stop and wonder about the things inside. The sign on the front is as evocative and preposterous as the engraved brass one that says Ministry of Silly Walks in the Monty Python sketch of the same name. This sign says REDUCED GRAVITY OFFICE."

On a member of a test team that she joined in with: "He has a minor in explosives, and the sullen,misanthropic personality of someone who shouldn't."

And this gem, on trying to get information about the chimpanzees who were part of the test programme: "The staff played hot potato with my call until someone could locate the Person in Charge of Lying to the Press. The PCLP said that the room that houses the base archives is locked. And that only the curator would have a key. And that Holloman currently has no curator. Evidently the new curator's first task would be to find a way to open the archives

It's worth reading the endnotes too. They're similarly funny as well as informative.


message 2: by Nicole R (new)

Nicole R (drnicoler) | 7784 comments I read Roach’s first three books, loved them, then, for some inexplicable reason, never picked her up again! I would like to get to this one. She is a wonderful writer and I do love me some space.

Have you read Sam Kean? He is also an amazing writer, and he and Roach both make science interesting, entertaining, and accessible. Kean has a new book out that has a history bent (if I am remembering properly) and I want to get to that one as well!


message 3: by Joanne (new)

Joanne (joabroda1) | 8078 comments I read this when it first came out, and I also really liked it. Which for me, who never reads anything science/space, is a great recommendation.


message 4: by KateNZ (new)

KateNZ | 2610 comments I haven’t read any Sam Kean yet, though the history of the periodic table really appeals! He’s going on the ever-increasing list ...

@JoAnne - glad you liked this too!


message 5: by David (new)

David Putnam (davidputnam) | 283 comments Great review.


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