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

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

4.1 261
by Mary Roach
     
 

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“America’s funniest science writer” (Washington Post) returns to explore the irresistibly strange universe of life without gravity in this New York Times bestseller.
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

Overview

“America’s funniest science writer” (Washington Post) returns to explore the irresistibly strange universe of life without gravity in this New York Times bestseller.
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 Mary Roach 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), Roach takes us on a surreally entertaining trip into the science of life in space and space on Earth.

Editorial Reviews

BoingBoing
“It’s all about those things NASA doesn’t delve into at press conferences.”
The Daily Beast
“A more realistic view of life in space than we have ever gotten from a NASA broadcast.”
Dallas Morning News
“Roach deftly guides her readers. . . . They never completely lose sight of the accomplishments of space travel, even as they take delight in the absurdities that, in the end, make those successes all the more sublime.”
Christian Science Monitor
“Roach provides a highly readable, often hilarious, guide.”
The New York Times
“[Roach's] style is at its most substantial—and most hilarious—in the zero-gravity realm that Packing for Mars explores.… As startling as it is funny.”— Janet Maslin
Time
“Roach’s strange enthusiasm for all things oddball . . . makes Mars a more than worthy destination.”
Janet Maslin - The New York Times
“[Roach's] style is at its most substantial—and most hilarious—in the zero-gravity realm that Packing for Mars explores.… As startling as it is funny.”
Geoff Nicholson - San Francisco Chronicle
“This is the kind of smart, smirky stuff that Roach does so well.”
M. G. Lord - The New York Times Book Review
“With an unflinching eye, [Roach] launches readers into the thick of spaceflight’s grossest engineering challenges.”
People
“Cool answers to questions about the void you didn’t even know you had.”
BookPage
“An utterly fascinating account, made all the more entertaining by the author’s ever-amused tone.”
Booklist
“An impish and adventurous writer with a gleefully inquisitive mind and stand-up comic’s timing.”
Time Out New York
“The author’s writing comes across as reportorial, but with a clear sense of humor; even the footnotes are used to both informational and comedic effect.”
Entertainment Weekly
“A truly funny look at the less majestic aspects of the space program.... Roach’s writing is supremely accessible, but there’s never a moment when you aren’t aware of how much research she’s done into unexplored reaches of space travel.”
San Francisco Chronicle
“This is the kind of smart, smirky stuff that Roach does so well.”— Geoff Nicholson
Library Journal
Popular science writer Mary Roach answers the questions of what it takes to send the human body into outer space—and how much normalcy can be given up in the process to survive there. Her no-holds-barred and lighthearted approach to the serious and mundane aspects of astronaut life makes this well-researched popular science work a hilarious, albeit occasionally gross, read as the ever-curious author delves into the immense efforts it takes to keep people healthy and happy in space.

(c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Janet Maslin
Ms. Roach has already written zealously nosy books about corpses (Stiff), copulation (Bonk) and charlatans (Spook). Each time, what has interested her most is the fringe material: exotic footnotes, smart one-liners, bizarre quasi-scientific phenomena. Yet her fluffily lightweight style is at its most substantial—and most hilarious—in the zero-gravity realm that Packing for Mars explores. Here's why: The topic of astronauts' bodily functions provides as good an excuse to ask rude questions as you'll find on this planet or any other…So Packing for Mars is as startling as it is funny, even if its strategic aim is to tell you more than you need to know.
—The New York Times
M. G. Lord
Anyone who thinks astronauts ply a glamorous trade would do well to read Mary Roach's Packing for Mars. The book is an often hilarious, sometimes queasy-making catalog of the strange stuff devised to permit people to survive in an environment for which their bodies are stupendously unsuited…With an unflinching eye for repellent details, she launches readers into the thick of spaceflight's grossest engineering challenges: disposing of human waste, controlling body odor without washing, and containing nausea…
—The New York Times Book Review
Peter Carlson
Roach is America's funniest science writer…in Packing for Mars, she has written a comic survey of space science, with emphasis on the absurd, the bizarre and the gross…Obviously, Roach is not afraid of the icky. In fact, her book is packed with the kind of delightfully disgusting details that brings joy to the hearts of 12-year-old boys—and to the 12-year-old boy that lurks inside the average adult male.
—The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
Roach (Stiff) once again proves herself the ideal guide to a parallel universe. Despite all the high-tech science that has resulted in space shuttles and moonwalks, the most crippling hurdles of cosmic travel are our most primordial human qualities: eating, going to the bathroom, having sex and bathing, and not dying in reentry. Readers learn that throwing up in a space helmet could be life-threatening, that Japanese astronaut candidates must fold a thousand origami paper cranes to test perseverance and attention to detail, and that cadavers are gaining popularity over crash dummies when studying landings. Roach's humor and determined curiosity keep the journey lively, and her profiles of former astronauts are especially telling. However, larger questions about the "worth" or potential benefits of space travel remain ostensibly unasked, effectively rendering these wild and well-researched facts to the status of trivia. Previously, Roach engaged in topics everyone could relate to. Unlike having sex or being dead, though, space travel pertains only to a few, leaving the rest of us unsure what it all amounts to. Still, the chance to float in zero gravity, even if only vicariously, can be surprising in what it reveals about us.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
The New York Times Book Review
“Hilarious.”

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780393339918
Publisher:
Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date:
04/04/2011
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
336
Sales rank:
29,025
Product dimensions:
5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.00(d)
Lexile:
1070L (what's this?)

Meet the Author

Mary Roach is the author of Grunt: The Curious Science of Humans at War, Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void, Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex, Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife, and Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers. Her writing has appeared in Outside, Wired, National Geographic, and the New York Times Magazine, among others. She lives in Oakland, California.

Brief Biography

Hometown:
San Francisco, California
Place of Birth:
New Hampshire
Education:
B.A., Wesleyan University, 1981
Website:
http://www.maryroach.net/

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Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 261 reviews.
angeleyesAS More than 1 year ago
This delightful read will entertain you and keep you laughing out loud and maintain your sense of wonder about space. You don't have to be a space wizard to appreciate this gem of a book. Everything you wanted to know and a lot you didn't, about space programs and the details of space travel from a human perspective. While not just informative, it's a great story and it's so funny!
Amber__Rose More than 1 year ago
What a fun book to read! I'm usually not one to read a lot of non-fiction, but this one had me laughing out loud with every turn of the page. I love space and science but had no idea what actually went into planning a mission. The best laughs are in the footnotes so don't skip over them! 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Loved this book. Every odd question about space you'd love to ask an astronaut while sitting at a bar and drinking with them is revealed.....and things you'd never think to ask.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Filled with fascinating, hysterical and compelling stories about about the difficulties of space travel. Worth the buy just to find out how long your underwear can last! I tell everyone i can. If you are interested in science, or liked any of mary roachs previous books, buy immediately!
Padraic_Israel More than 1 year ago
Mary Roach's Packing for Mars is a must read if you've ever wondered what it takes to go into space. The book is very informative, taking readers through the development of manned spaceflight, answering all sorts of questions from "What is it like to be weightless?" to "How do you go to the bathroom in space?" Mary Roach's writing style is very approachable, and she does a wonderful job of explaining many, many complicated subjects, turning what could be boring technical writing into an exciting and entertaining look at spaceflight. If you're a fan of her other works, you'll enjoy this one too.
WritermomHB More than 1 year ago
What do you think about going to Mars? Mary Roach thinks about the little things as well as the big things. Her research goes all the way back to the beginning of the space program. She quotes astronauts as well as scientists. She talks about the requirements to get into the space program. She asks the everyday questions that "common" folks want to know, even if they don't admit it to others. What about going to the bathroom in space? What about sex in space? She did a lot of research for this book, and presents it in a humorous fashion, so that it can be enjoyed by almost anyone interested in this subject. Sometimes, one might get "bogged down" in reading, as so much information that one never thought would need to be researched is presented, but keep on reading. You will be surprised what you will learn. For instance, did you know that people are paid to lie on their backs for weeks at a time to learn the effects of that on the human body? I enjoyed this book very much and would highly recommend it to anyone who is interested in the space program and/or NASA at all.
JanetOH More than 1 year ago
I loved this book-it's chock-full of things I never knew, from excerpts from transcripts of early space flights, to physiological studies and what kind of food is eaten on space flights. Lots of humor too!
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lovelybookshelf More than 1 year ago
Packing for Mars is all about space travel, its history, its future, and how getting to space and living in zero gravity affect the human body. I had countless moments of "oh, okay, that actually makes perfect sense" which made me wonder, why have these things never crossed my mind as I watch space shuttle launches or keep up with the goings-on of the ISS? Thankfully, the people at NASA have thought of everything, worked out possible solutions, and tested each one thoroughly. And I do mean everything, thoroughly. Every tiny detail of things we do each day, no matter how trivial it seems, has to be considered, whether it's pleasant or not-so-pleasant. Gravity is far more important than I ever realized (and I held it in very high esteem already!). I love how Mary Roach's personality shines through her writing. She is fearless, covering any and all topics affecting astronauts, even those topics which embarrass NASA and cause them to create ridiculous, goofy euphemisms to ease their discomfort. Roach maintains a light, casual tone throughout, yet everything is extremely well-researched and well-documented. The rabbit trails in her footnotes are a lot of fun, too, sometimes very peculiar and off-the-wall. I loved that. (She really sounds like an awesome person to hang out with!) If you are even remotely interested in the science and exploration of space, Packing for Mars is a perfect book for you!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Informatve and enjoyable
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Marvelous! As a person who reads everyday for enjoyment, I go through ALOT of books. This book has instantly become a favorite that I will be sharing with my friends and family. Who knew that all things NASA could be so fascinating and funny! An absolutely delightful read that I finished in two days. A new favorite author who's series is going in my Nook immediatly. Keep 'em coming, Mary! Do yourself a favor and buy this one, readers of America!!!
Bookie-Book More than 1 year ago
I have to say, this book is both witty and informative. We've all heard the stories about the space program and how all the astronauts have the right stuff. But did you ever wonder about the everyday details? What it physically and emotionally felt like in the initial lift off. Or how one might shower in zero gravity? Or who was the first person to pee on the moon? Well this book gives you the answers and more! I found myself laughing out loud! Yet at the same time taking the content completely seriously. Of you've ever been interested in what it was like to float through space, this is the book for you!
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