Title: Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void
Author: Mary Roach
Genre: Non-fiction, Science
Publication Date: 2010
Purchase Price: $25.95 (hardback)
Space. The final frontier. What lies beyond the earth and its moon? How does space travel affect the human body and mind? Is it possible that someday we’ll put a man (or woman) on Mars? More importantly, what happens when you puke in your helmet during the middle of a space walk? Whose job is it to unclog the space toilet? And who thought it was a good idea to let veterinarians develop the (dehydrated) food for the trip?
Welcome to the quirky, awesome mind of Mary Roach and Packing for Mars.
In space, no one can hear you laugh
Roach is the perfect author, able to combine impeccable research with giggle-inducing observations.
She touches on just about every aspect of space research and travel, including its history, possible future, and some aspects that I’d never thought about before—and probably would have been totally okay with never having thought about.
For example, a fun fact: Did you know that sometimes astronaut poo escapes its toilet-y confines and has to be rounded up? They call them “escapees.” There’s audio transmission recordings of it and everything. You’re welcome.
There’s also more of the conventional stuff, if you can call anything about space “conventional” — research on the effects of zero gravity on the human body, the experiments undertaken to see if human travel to Mars is possible/worth it, etc.
A quick side note
I have no idea who is responsible for the photography in Packing for Mars (as well as Roach’s other books), but they’re a genius. The image for chapter four (“The Alarming Prospect of Life Without Gravity”) is Gilligan (of island fame) hovering in the air through the use of a jet pack.; for chapter sixteen (“Is Mars Worth It?”) it’s two men in space suits lugging rolling suitcases. Fabulous.
Also, this book smells delicious. Kudos to whomever selected the paper and ink.
Second star to the right
Although I loved Packing for Mars, I think I prefer one of her other titles, Bonk, better—not because it’s any better written, but because I enjoy Bonk‘s subject matter more (cause I’m sick like that). That said, Roach could probably make just about any topic fascinating.
In short, check it out. And don’t forget to stock up on Toasted Bread Cubes.
Why Does the Sun Shine? (They Might be Giants)
“I don’t know quite how to phrase this or what it reveals about me, but I have never detected BO in the pubic region. O, for sure, but not BO. I asked University of Pennsylvania dermatologist and body odor researcher Jim Leyden about this. He verified the apocrine presence in the groin, and insisted there’s a similar smell. ‘It’s just not that easily appreciated,’ he said, ‘because the sensing device is farther away.’ I decided to let it ride.” (pp. 195-196)
Have you read any of Roach’s books? Would you volunteer for NASA experiments? Would you travel to Mars if given the opportunity?