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Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Voidby Mary Roach
If you haven't read Mary Roach's previous bestsellers Bonk and Stiff (shame on you!), Packing for Mars is as good an introduction to Roach as you'll find. Space travel hasn't been this funny or intriguing since Douglas Adams — and best of all, it's true!
Synopses & Reviews
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.
"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. (Aug.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright PWyxz LLC)
"Popular-science writer Roach entertainingly addresses numerous questions about life in outer space....A delightful, illuminating grab bag of space-flight curiosities." Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
"Roach brings intrepid curiosity, sauciness, and chutzpah to the often staid practice of popular science writing....An impish and adventurous writer with a gleefully inquisitive mind and a stand-up comics timing, Roach celebrates human ingenuity (the odder the better), and calls for us to marshal our resources, unchain our imaginations, and start packing for Mars." Booklist
"[Roach] is part serious science journalist, part human guinea pig, part class clown, part stand-up comic. The combination of her topics, her research and her writing style is hard to resist." Oregonian
"[A]n 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." New York Times
"Cool answers to questions about the void you didn't even know you had. An utterly fascinating account, made all the more entertaining by the author's ever-amused tone.An impish and adventurous writer with a gleefully inquisitive mind and stand-up comic's timing. A delightful, illuminating grab bag of space-flight curiosities. 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." Time Out New York
"[Her] 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
"Truly funny....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. This is the kind of smart, smirky stuff that Roach does so well." Geoff Nicholson
Book News Annotation:
After tackling such topics as the fate of cadavers, the existence of ghosts, and sex in scientific research, Mary Roach settles her gaze on the not-so-glamorous lives of astronauts, their training, and the quirky experiments performed in the name of space science. Roach's research sends her into the archives and into zero-gee flight in order to find answers to such questions as what happens when an astronaut vomits in his/her helmet, and whether or not it is feasible, or even possible, to have sex in a gravity-free environment. As informative as it is funny, this book will appeal to space enthusiasts, trivia whizzes, and anyone out for a good laugh. Included in the work is a bibliography and timeline of worldwide space achievements, but no index. Annotation ©2010 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
The best-selling author of Stiff and Bonk explores the irresistibly strange universe of space travel and life without gravity.
About the Author
Mary Roach is the author of Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers, Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife, Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex, and Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void. She lives in Oakland, California.
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