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Lunch » Tags » Books » Reviews » Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void » User review

100% educational, 100% entertaining and 100% hilarious!

  • Sep 16, 2010
Rating:
+5
The ability to land a spacecraft on Mars is old hat. As a matter of fact, the technology, although it was and remains prohibitively expensive, existed over thirty years ago. The real impediment, indeed, the only impediment to manned space travel to Mars is man himself.

In PACKING FOR MARS, an inexhaustibly curious, incorrigibly irreverent and perennially humorous Mary Roach explores the myriad issues and problems that the biological package known as "man" presents to space travel. It is no exaggeration to suggest that preparation for long term survival in low gravity and extended confinement in extremely close quarters touches on virtually every aspect of man's life - biology, culture, morality, sexuality, psychology, politics, leisure, health, hygiene and even religious practice.

Although the scientific content of PACKING FOR MARS is 100% real and informative, Mary Roach's approach to the topic is light-hearted and, from cover to cover, tongue in cheek and 100% hilarious and utterly entertaining. With the practical problems of zero-gravity defecation and the logistical problem of what to do with the results of any successful elimination being very near the top of the list of engineering conundrums, it's probably not a big surprise to let a potential reader know that scatological humour runs rampant throughout the book. Tears of laughter positively streamed from my eyes as I learned, for example, that the gas volume and the speed of expulsion of even the most flatulent person conceivable would not be sufficient to propel him or her across the room in a zero-gravity situation (Note to self - watch for a potential future MYTHBUSTERS episode!)

PACKING FOR MARS ends with the acknowledgement that pure research on Mars is probably best conducted by robots, computers and pure hardware technology without benefit of man's presence. But, she also pleads the case that, since governments are so prone to fritter away vast sums of money on unproductive and entirely wasteful projects anyway, perhaps it may actually be prudent to plan some frivolous spending on a manned Mars landing. After all, you never know what may come of it!

PACKING FOR MARS is highly recommended with the comment that, aside from being thoroughly entertaining and wonderfully educational, it undoubtedly makes my Top 10 list of the funniest books I've ever read. How can you go wrong with a combination like that?

Paul Weiss

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More Packing for Mars: The Curious ... reviews
review by . August 28, 2010
Not the triumphs and the tragedies, but the stuff in between
Author Mary Roach has an in-your-face take on science. Her first three books went where not many science writers dare to go; Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers (2003), Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife (2005), and Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex (2008). Now she entertains us with Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void.       There's no overdose of astrophysics here, but plenty of pragmatic …
Quick Tip by . September 16, 2010
Do you ever dream of being an astronaut? Do you enjoy well written popular science? Do you enjoy a good laugh? Are you unembarrassed or undisturbed by a good fart joke? If this sounds like you, then PACKING FOR MARS is a book that you really must read. PACKING FOR MARS is the story about why man's biology is the sole impediment to a space flight to Mars!
About the reviewer
Paul Weiss ()
Ranked #16
   A modern day dilettante with widely varied eclectic interests. A dabbler in muchbut grandmaster of none - wilderness camping in all four seasons, hiking, canoeing, world travel,philately, … more
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Amazon Best Books of the Month, August 2010: With her wry humor and inextinguishable curiosity, Mary Roach has crafted her own quirky niche in the somewhat staid world of science writing, showing no fear (or shame) in the face of cadavers, ectoplasm, or sex. InPacking for Mars, Roach tackles the strange science of space travel, and the psychology, technology, and politics that go into sending a crew into orbit. Roach is unfailingly inquisitive (Why is it impolite for astronauts to float upside down during conversations? Just how smelly does a spacecraft get after a two week mission?), and she eagerly seeks out the stories that don't make it onto NASA's website--from SPCA-certified space suits for chimps, to the trial-and-error approach to crafting menus during the space program's early years (when the chefs are former livestock veterinarians, taste isn't high on the priority list).Packing for Marsis a book for grownups who still secretly dream of being astronauts, and Roach lives it up on their behalf--weightless in a C-9 aircraft, she just can't resist the opportunity to go "Supermanning" around the cabin. Her zeal for discovery, combined with her love of the absurd, amazing, and stranger-than-fiction, makePacking for Marsan uproarious trip into the world of space travel.--Lynette Mong
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Details

ISBN-10: 0393068471
ISBN-13: 978-0393068474
Author: Mary Roach
Genre: Professional & Technical, Science
Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company
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