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Packing For Mars

July 17th, 2010

Packing for Mars cover

Packing For Mars by Mary Roach

When most people think of space travel, they think of the adventure, the excitement of discovery, and the daring of the astronauts, who ride giant tubes filled with explosives into orbit and beyond.

Once you read Mary Roach’s delightful and informative new book “Packing For Mars” you will gain added appreciation for the heroics of our astronauts…for their bravery in putting up with the surprisingly complex minutiae of eating, sleeping, moving around, and yes, defecating in outer space. Not to mention surviving the horrid odors generated when grown adults live in a compartment the size of a small car for days or weeks on end, to the point their underwear actually beings to disintegrate.

Roach’s book covers everything about what happens when human physiological needs meet the final frontier. Chapters deal with the complexities of eating and drinking in zero G, as well as, the travails of motion sickness, psychology and, of course, zero-G sex. The author does some impressive research on this latter subject even tracking down the people involved in the production of a supposed low-gravity adult film as well as talking to former US and Soviet space travelers about this oft-taboo subject.

Roach is a delightful writer, always willing to throw in a well-timed joke or piece of obscure trivia (often contained in addictively fascinating footnotes) from the NASA archives. She also “walks the walk” going on a zero-G simulator and even participating in a simulated Mars mission in the Arctic. In one of the most touching chapters, she tracks down the remains of the first Americans in space – two chimpanzees, and talks to their (now long-retired) handlers about their contribution to increasing our knowledge of space.

“Packing For Mars” is one of the best general-interest books on space travel in years, and will be enjoyed by anyone who has ever gazed at floating astronauts and wondered – even for half a second – “how do they go to the bathroom up there?”

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