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Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of…

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

by Mary Roach

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
2,4302052,548 (4.01)372
  1. 41
    A Man on the Moon: The Voyages of the Apollo Astronauts by Andrew Chaikin (Othemts)
  2. 64
    The Right Stuff by Tom Wolfe (Othemts, nessreader)
    nessreader: The shift in corporate mentality in NASA between the testosterone drenched fighter pilots of Wolfe's era and the team orientated and PR-paranoid present is instructive. The terrifying discipline required seems equal; in any case, interesting to compare.
  3. 10
    What's It Like in Space?: Stories from Astronauts Who've Been There by Ariel Waldman (bragan)
    bragan: Packing for Mars is definitely the book to read if you're interested in the odd quirks of life in space (at least if you're OK with reading about bodily functions), and What's It Like In Space? makes for a fun little companion volume to it.
  4. 10
    Riding Rockets: The Outrageous Tales of a Space Shuttle Astronaut by Mike Mullane (itbgc)
  5. 10
    The Martian by Andy Weir (sboyte)
    sboyte: One is fiction and one is nonfiction, but the subject matter is similar and I think both will appeal to anyone who enjoys science with a dash of humor.

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Showing 1-5 of 207 (next | show all)
From my Cannonball Read V review...

This is my second Mary Roach book of this Cannonball read, and the fact that it popped into my queue right now is perfect, because Gravity is out and I cannot wait to see it.

I was excited to read this because when I was a kid I wanted to be an astronaut. Not enough to get into the physics and astronomy track in college, or enlist in the air force, or really do anything to actively pursue that career path, but enough that to this day I still think that if I win the lottery I plan to squirrel away a chunk of the change to pay my way into space (after donating the vast majority of it to charity, of course.)

The premise is not just exploring space travel, but specifically extended space travel. Ms. Roach does a great job of weaving in the history of space travel through specific areas from eating space food to … eliminating said food. There are so many wonderful facts, great footnotes and just fun stories. She gets to ride the vomit comet (i.e. the parabolic flight), interview groundbreaking (atmosphere-busting?) astronauts, scientists and others.

The book is especially interesting because it doesn’t sugar-coat anything about space travel. I didn’t realize, for example, that some of the early space flights involved two dudes hanging out in a capsule for two weeks, no ability to wash or really take care of any personal hygiene needs. Or how much fecal matter can end up floating around in the space shuttle, and how much research and development had to go into creating a toilet, or how much effort goes into creating food that allows for a little more time between … evacuations.

Along the way of telling the story of all the challenges that are increased on a long space trip, Ms. Roach drops great little bits of knowledge. For example, she explains how the flag on the moon looked like it was blowing in the wind even though there isn’t wind on the moon, and talks about why people get motion sickness. There are so many awesome nuggets that it’s worth it for anyone who is into trivia.

You know the drill. It’s Mary Roach. It’s good. You’ll probably like it. Add it to the list.
( )
  ASKelmore | Jul 8, 2017 |
This is the second book I've read by author Mary Roach. I don't look for dumbing-down in my non-fiction selections, but she has a way of discussing the serious aspects of a topic with a certain verve; a twist of tongue that litters her prose with bits of welcome laughter. I'm hooked, again.

After the Apollo missions, NASA's focus turned to experimentation in place of exploration. She explains that everything NASA does is essentially preparation for the next bigger mission they choose.

As part of her research, Mary Roach even "applied to be a subject in a simulated Mars mission". She was part of an expedition visiting Devon Island, using NASA's latest rover prototypes. She describes these as looking like "a futuristic camper van".

She explains to readers the mental and emotional rigors of space travel and the extensive testing that precedes all excursions. Did you know that the forces of gravity, whether from traditional gravity, or centrifugal force, can cause extreme stress or even separation of the brain from the spinal cord? NASA takes every aspect of space exploration seriously.

She explains that astronauts do not only deal with dietary sacrifice, they also face a change to their very being. Walking around is taken for granted. Weightlessness changes everything. Astronauts are faced with ortho static hypotension because of the lack of gravity. This is an aspect of a disorder that our family deals with on a daily basis, so it was interesting for me to read about. Joints that don't receive enough of the normal stress we experience from the simplest activities on earth, show sometimes great amounts of bone loss upon return to Earth.

One natural physical activity that is craved by every human being is about the only thing that hasn't been explicitly experimented with on outer space missions; sex. Oh, there's lots of talk, lots of wondering... NASA has not yet found appropriate parameters within which they can approach this topic. Mary explains the sensible reasons behind this. She even goes on her own mission and determines that the only pornographic film to claim that it was filmed in zero gravity indeed was not.

Pregnancy and childbirth are lofty ideas when it comes to space exploration. Russia once sent a "mischief" of rats into space, keeping the males and females separated until they were launched. After that, the rays were given open access and allowed to freely mate. Upon their return to Earth, some of the females exhibited signs of conception, but none were pregnant. April Ronca is quoted in relation to this, "Maybe the placenta can't form. Maybe the uterus can't have proper implantation. Any step along the way could be compromised by zero gravity in ways that we haven't foreseen. We know nothing."

Mary calls our attention the fact that many of the items we use on a regular basis has their origins in the space program. "If it's cordless, fireproof, lightweight, and strong, miniaturized, or automated, chances are food NASA has had a hand in the technology. We are talking trash compactors, bulletproof vests, high-speed wireless data transfer, implantable heart monitors, cordless power tools, artificial limbs, dustbiswrs, sports bras, computerized insulin pumps, fire-fighters' masks."

Space travel holds me in awe. Did you know that "up through Apollo 11, every mission included a major NASA first?" Those days are not all behind us; in fact, it is expected that we will send a few select people to Mars by the year 2030. Isn't that incredible?

People sometimes question why we bother with further exploration of the universe. I believe it is the loftiest endeavor ahead of us and that we must continue to take each next step, to expand our knowledge of ourselves and of other worlds. Mary quotes Benjamin Franklin, and I'll close with that, "I defer to the sentiments of Benjamin Franklin. Upon the occasion of history's first manned flights-in the 1780s, about the Montgolfier brothers' hot-air balloons-someone asked Franklin what use he saw in such frivolity. "What use," he replied, "is a newborn baby?" Think on that. ( )
  BoundTogetherForGood | Jun 20, 2017 |
Mostly good; a bit dry at times. Great few chapters on excretory functions in space. ( )
  frddb07 | May 24, 2017 |
"Packing for Mars" is a book about the history of NASA's space experiments and flights. An example of one is the the flight of NASA's first human astronaut's flight. An another example is the test is a strange one, NASA has an place called FARU, or Flight Analogs Research Unit, that is for testing what would happen to people's skeleton if they would stay off their feet for a long period of time. They test this by being on a bed for a long time without getting off, and to get volunteers, they will PAY YOU TO DO IT! The book is from Mary Roaches perspective, most of the time, and she adds in footnotes so people that read the book can have extra information. There are 16 chapters, each about a different topic about NASA's experiences, tests, and flights.

I give this book 5 stars because this book has no flaws and it tells the truth about some space myths. My favorite thing in this book is in a footnote, it says Russia has a memorial called the Tomb of the Unknown Dog, and I can't believe there is a memorial for dogs, I love dogs, dogs are my favorite type of pet! This book is not like other science books, the writer has a sense of humor! I recommend this book for people that like science books and books about space. The fact that the book has humor, the book is better, but if the topic was different, the book will be worse, not better. A funny thing in the book is that astronauts must be "retaught" for space, it is funny, it makes the astronauts seem like children! ( )
  NoahJ.BG3 | Mar 11, 2017 |
Mary Roach makes every subject interesting, and space travel is no exception. In this book, she describes all of the challenges that come with traveling in outer space, especially with a destination as far away as Mars. Roach doesn't shy away from any details. She covers how astronauts eat and take care of other personal needs. If you like knowing obscure facts about a range of subjects, you will enjoy Mary Roach. ( )
  porch_reader | Jan 21, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 207 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Mary Roachprimary authorall editionscalculated
Burr, SandraNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Cipriano, EllenDesignersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Druskin, JuliaProduction managersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Garrett, ScottCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Keenan, JamieCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Nickolls, LeoCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wiemer, FredCopyeditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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For Jay Mandel and Jill Bialosky, with cosmic gratitude
First words
To the rocket scientist, you are a problem.
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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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?
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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 Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:11:38 -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

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

Editions: 0393068471, 0393339912

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