Review: Packing For Mars
Publish Date: August 2010
Format: Audiobook | 11 Hours
Rating: 5 of 5
You don’t have to be a science nerd to enjoy this book about NASA and the space program. I admit I’m a geek and I love this stuff but this really is a book for all audiences. Last year, when I saw Mary Roach on John Stewart’s Daily Show talking about her (at the time) new book, Packing for Mars, she was so entertaining and funny that I thought I’ve got to read this book. I ended up listening to the audio version.
The book is not about Mars. I kept wondering when we were going to get to Mars. A few chapters in it hit me, the title is just a metaphor for what needs to be done to get into space. And boy do we find out. The author spent hours pouring through old flight transcripts, interviewing astronauts and NASA personnel and even going for a ride into weightlessness on the Vomit Comet, a low orbital flight that provides a nearly weightless environment in which to train astronauts and conduct research. The result is a hilarious look at the training and research for space travel. She asks the questions that you want to know the answers to but won’t find in any Science magazine or NASA publication.
Each chapter explores a different aspect of planning for space going back to the earliest mission through today on the International Space Station. Want to know how that space station toilet works and how they designed and tested it? Ummm, the training toilet has a camera in it. And bathroom breaks need to be scheduled because there’s no gravity and therefore no urge! And what did they do for a toilet on the Apollo and earlier missions and how bad did that space capsule smell after two weeks? Is it possible to have sex in space? Which foods can be brought on board and why are crumbs bad?
It’s not all bathroom jokes, there are also serious topics such as how astronauts are chosen for the program, a discussion of the psychological studies on long periods of isolation and the effects of weightlessness on the health of the astronauts. She also relates some strange but true stories and debunks a few well know myths.
The audio production was nicely done and easy to listen to. This would be a good title for those just starting to listen to audio books. There are no characters or plot elements or timelines to keep track of.
Interesting, informative and laugh-out-loud funny this is a book I highly recommend.