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Packing for Mars : the curious science of life in the void (edition 2010)

by Mary Roach

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1,9581763,475 (4.02)323
Member:bluesalamanders
Title:Packing for Mars : the curious science of life in the void
Authors:Mary Roach
Info:New York : W.W. Norton, c2010.
Collections:Reviewed, Audiobook
Rating:****1/2
Tags:type: audiobook, read 2012, genre: non-fiction, non-fiction

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

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Showing 1-5 of 176 (next | show all)
For some reason I'd never imagined that a trip to Mars would involve so much discussion about faecal matter. Happily, Mary Roach sets me straight in "Packing for Mars", showing me that, when organising a manned flight to Mars, it is a case of "faecal matters".

Indeed, while Roach spends over 300 pages covering issues like the reasoning behind Japan's choice of astronauts, how human bone structure will be affected by space travel and many other such issues, it's the faecal matter that sticks in my mind (so to speak).

I really should be writing on Roach's excellent writing style, where she is able to boil down scientific issues into layman's terms, or her determination to watch people having sex in space but really, who's got time for that when you can reminisce about her attempts to take a dump in zero gravity. And by the time page 273 rolled around, and its transcript of the Apollo 10 mission, whereby the astronauts encounter a couple of turds just floating on by, I was ready to propose to Ms Roach.

My favourite book of the year. ( )
  MiaCulpa | Oct 16, 2014 |
Informative and laugh out loud funny. ( )
  kwbridge | Sep 6, 2014 |
I've loved Mary Roach's other books - some of the best, most enjoyable, weird, quirky books I've ever read. Having said that, this one was not as good as the others. It started out with so many jokes it was hard to tell who was saying what and which sentences were jokes. Overall, however, it was an interesting read - enjoyable for anyone who grew up during the early space race - a good behind the scenes look at the missions and astronaut criteria etc... Excellent narrator for audiobook. ( )
  marshapetry | Sep 3, 2014 |
Light and fluffy but strangely enjoyable. Roach has delved into into the mundane but important details of manned space flight; how to use the bathroom, how not to get space sick, how to make edible food. At times I wished she were less flippant, though not more serious, and she does get a bit more fascinated with sex and scat than I wanted to know but still fun.
  amyem58 | Jul 15, 2014 |
The book begins: "To the rocket scientist, you are the 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 remainder of the book is just as good. It deals with the human aspects of spaceflight -- most of them a function of being in a confined space, zero gravity, and outside of you the void. The chapters focus on different issues. One is on going to the bathroom in space, which turns out to be remarkably complicated -- gravity is both how your body knows you need to urinate and also how excrement makes it's way out. Another is one eating in space -- and the problems of crumbs floating around in zero gravity, getting in people's eyes, noses, and fouling up equipment. Other chapters are isolation chambers on earth where people train for space, the Japanese method of psychologically screening potential astronauts (they examine their origami), the careers of famous chimp astronauts, the role of cadavers in crash tests, and training for ultra-high altitude escapes.

The limitation of the book is sometimes it is overly "reported," with extended descriptions of how the author visited such and such facility, who she met, what she found, etc. The author at times seems too taken by her own humor and riffs. Some of the tangents are interesting but there are too many of them for my taste. But these are minor flaws compared to a fascinating book that will forever change the way you see space travel. ( )
1 vote nosajeel | Jun 21, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 176 (next | show all)
Packing for Mars Review
The book starts with explaining how Japan picks which astronauts are fit to go on missions. They test them by their ability to do origami quickly. It then lists, by chapters, several examples of the “behind the scenes” aspects of different space travel situations. There is no real plot to the book, just examples and situations to show the less-glamorous side to space living/travel.
I really liked this book, even though it is nonfiction. I usually read fiction books only because I feel like they are more interesting, but this book and Mary Roach changed my mind about that. Her funny, sarcastic, and lighthearted writing style made the book very enjoyable to read. There are some very serious and dangerous aspects to space living/travel, such as radiation, but Roach tends to stay away from these areas to keep the book more appealing and hilarious. A quote I found important was “the act of vomiting deserves your respect. It's an orchestral event of the gut.” This quote shows exactly the kind of humor Roach uses, and shows how she talks about the less glamorous side of being an astronaut.
I would definitely recommend this to someone who doesn't usually read nonfiction books, because this really changed my mind about them. I also recommend it to anyone who likes a good laugh when reading, because Mary Roach is definitely capable of making you laugh throughout the whole book, even in the more serious parts of the book. I think this is a good book for teens to read because you learn a lot of interesting things about space, being in space, and the equipment used in space. You also are kept engaged in the book with the ever-changing subjects, but not in a way that confuses you, so it is fairly easy to read.
From reading this book, I have learned to think about everything having another side to it. As
Gatewood 2

Roach explained the less-popular aspects of space programs, it made me think that everything has other sides or aspects to it. A concert is one example of this. If you go to a concert, all you see is the stage, the lights, the performer(s), and other special effects or props. What you don't see are all the people working tirelessly to make all the lights and other effects go off without a hitch, and making sure all the music and singing sounds good and the systems are working properly. So there is a lot “behind the scenes” work that makes everything seem the way it is, and Roach explains that very well in this book by giving details about the unknown side of preparing for space travel.
added by rgatewood1 | editMyself, Ryan Gatewood
 

» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Mary Roachprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Burr, SandraNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Cipriano, EllenDesignersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Druskin, JuliaProduction managersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
KeenanCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Keenan, JamieCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wiemer, FredCopyeditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
Dedication
For Jay Mandel and Jill Bialosky, with cosmic gratitude
First words
To the rocket scientist, you are a problem.
Quotations
If you stumbled onto 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. I know what is in there, but even so, I have to stand for a moment and indulge my imagination, through which coffeepots are floating and secretaries drift here and there like paper airplanes. Or better still, an organization devoted to the taking of absolutely nothing seriously.
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Book description
Contents:

He's smart but his birds are sloppy: Japan picks an astronaut -- Life in a box: the perilous psychology of isolation and confinement -- Star crazy: can space blow your mind? -- You go first: the alarming prospect of life without gravity -- Unstowed: escaping gravity on board NASA's C-9 -- Throwing up and down: the astronaut's secret misery -- The cadaver in the space capsule: NASA visits the crash test lab -- One furry step for mankind: the strange careers of Ham and Enos -- Next gas 200,000 miles: planning a moon expedition is tough, but not as tough as planning a simulated one -- Houston, we have a fungus: space hygiene and the men who stopped bathing for science -- The horizontal stuff: what if you never got out of bed? -- The three-dolphin club: mating without gravity -- Withering heights: bailing out from space -- Separation anxiety: the continuing saga of zero-gravity elimination -- Discomfort food: when veterinarians make dinner, and other tales of woe from aerospace test kitchens -- Eating your pants: is Mars worth it?
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0393068471, Hardcover)

Amazon Best Books of the Month, August 2010: With her wry humor and inextinguishable curiosity, Mary Roach has crafted her own quirky niche in the somewhat staid world of science writing, showing no fear (or shame) in the face of cadavers, ectoplasm, or sex. In Packing for Mars, Roach tackles the strange science of space travel, and the psychology, technology, and politics that go into sending a crew into orbit. Roach is unfailingly inquisitive (Why is it impolite for astronauts to float upside down during conversations? Just how smelly does a spacecraft get after a two week mission?), and she eagerly seeks out the stories that don't make it onto NASA's website--from SPCA-certified space suits for chimps, to the trial-and-error approach to crafting menus during the space program's early years (when the chefs are former livestock veterinarians, taste isn't high on the priority list). Packing for Mars is a book for grownups who still secretly dream of being astronauts, and Roach lives it up on their behalf--weightless in a C-9 aircraft, she just can't resist the opportunity to go "Supermanning" around the cabin. Her zeal for discovery, combined with her love of the absurd, amazing, and stranger-than-fiction, make Packing for Mars an uproarious trip into the world of space travel. --Lynette Mong

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:33:19 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

The 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 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 at 17,000 miles per hour? To answer these questions, space agencies set up all manner of quizzical and startlingly bizarre space simulations. As the author discovers, it's possible to preview space without ever leaving Earth. From the space shuttle training toilet to a crash test of NASA's new space capsule (cadaver filling in for astronaut), she takes us on a surreally entertaining trip into the science of life in space and space on Earth.… (more)

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W.W. Norton

Two editions of this book were published by W.W. Norton.

Editions: 0393068471, 0393339912

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