Title: Packing for Mars
Author: Mary Roach
Publisher: WW Norton & Company
Publication Date: January 2010
Series: Stand Alone
Audio or Book: Book
Reason for Discovery: County Book Club pick
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.
Mary Roach is a nonfiction writer who asks scientists the questions that we all want to ask but feel a bit embarrassed to ask ourselves. In Packing for Mars, Roach explores all the important space questions like how do you go to the bathroom in space, have any astronauts had sex in space, and are astronauts smelly?
My local library picks a book for the entire county to read each year. This year, the book was Packing for Mars. At the end of the month, Mary Roach came to my town and gave a talk. I was glad to finally have an excuse to read this book. My husband studies astronomy, so even though I am a big fan of Roach, reading a book about astronauts sounded a bit boring to me. I am quite glad that I did read this book.
Packing for Mars, like all of Roach's books, was a lot of fun and quite fascinating. I found myself really intrigued by most of the chapters even when I already had a bit of working knowledge on the subject that she was discussing. Even my husband learned a few things by looking through this book. If you don't know very much (or anything at all) about the space program, don't worry. Roach is great at making topics approachable to a general audience, so you will not be left behind.
Although Stiff is still my favorite Roach book, Packing for Mars was quite interesting. Roach had a nice balance of interviews and research papers cited throughout the text. Roach digested her research very nicely and walked her audience confidently through the material. Roach writes these books in a conversational style, and I always feel like we are just having our own private conversation. I should probably note here that Roach's live in-person interview at my local library had the same feel as her writer's voice. Roach is a chill and fun person. If you are worried that you are going to want more substance, Roach cites all of her references, so if any of Roach's topics interest you in particular, you can read her sources (yea for proper citations!).
Overall, I enjoyed this book. It was fun and informative all at the same time. If you enjoy Roach's books or you want to read a quirky book about astronauts and space, Packing for Mars is for you.