Packing for Mars, by Mary Roach

Ah, Mary Roach. It’s been awhile. How you been? Oh, you’ve been gallivanting around the world talking to astronauts and wannabe astronauts and chimponauts and people who pretend to be astronauts for SCIENCE? Tell me more!

And she does! There is much more than I would have guessed to tell about space, that final frontier and whatnot. Some of it I had heard before, like the bit about how a certain president was not a fan of lady astronauts, and oddly some of it I heard on a podcast referencing Packing for Mars after I had started the book but before I got to the part they referenced. That was odd.

Other bits I had not heard but made sense, and were kind of intriguing, like the whole chimps in space program and how it totally ruined the start of our space race and how at one point there was a human testing a spacesuit to see if it was humane for chimps, except that the point of the chimp wearing the spacesuit was to see if it was safe for humans. Oh, science. And the part where she goes off to Japan to visit their astronaut training camp or whatever and you find out that Japanese astronaut candidates have to fold 1000 paper cranes for luck and psychological testing. On that basis alone, I am not cut out to be an astronaut.

And, of course, in true Mary Roach fashion, there were also bits about sex in space and poop in space that I didn’t know I didn’t need to know until I knew them. Darn her! Suffice it to say that it is difficult to do both, and so NASA at least tries to avoid them when at all possible. Also, you shouldn’t talk about your poo problems on a live microphone. For your sake AND everyone else’s.

I’m wondering if my lack of love for Spook is content-based or narrator-based, because the woman who narrates this one also did Bonk and I liked the latter equally as much as this current one. I think this narrator has an excellent blend of “Wow, did you know this?” and “Wow, did you need to know this?” and sometimes, “Wow, you definitely don’t need to know this but it’s written down so I’m gonna have to tell you anyway,” like when Roach writes about her lack of knowledge about body odor in the crotchal region, not for lack of trying ew. Sorry. I heard it, so you have to, too!

I promise most of the other fun facts in this book are actually fun, and it’s about space! I really don’t think you can go wrong.

Recommendation: For lovers of SCIENCE and crazy people who write about science and obscure factoids disguised as science.

Rating: 8/10

(What’s in a Name Challenge)

Space space wanna go to space yes please space. Space space. Go to space.
Better buy a telescope. Wanna see me. Buy a telescope. Gonna be in space.
Iā€™m in space.

5 thoughts on “Packing for Mars, by Mary Roach

  1. dooliterature says:

    I think I would read almost anything Mary Roach wrote. You're definitely right about her blend of interesting facts and gross-out moments, and she does it all with such a dry sense of humor that really tickles my fancy. šŸ™‚ She has me much more interested in reading about science than any textbook or NatGeo documentary ever did.

  2. Alison says:

    Anna ā€” Meeee too! I wasn't a big fan of Spook, but I'm going to give it a pass for a less-good narrator and the fact that I listened to it while on a ten-hour solo drive home, which is not the most conducive listening experience!

    Stephanie ā€” I think I only have Stiff left to get to, unless she's secretly written more than four books, which I suppose is possible. But I highly recommend this one!

  3. Steph says:

    I love books that tackle odd/quirky science issues, so you'd think I would have read Mary Roach by now… but I have not! I really really should, especially since I have a copy of Stiff and everything! It sounds like she's great at taking all of her research and distilling it into easily digestible parcels that are also fun to read!

  4. Alison says:

    Steph ā€” WHAT. Go read some Mary Roach right this instant! I haven't read Stiff, but I'm sure you can't go wrong. She is, in fact, quite good at giving you the information you didn't know you wanted, and explaining it so that you can go tell everyone you know about it. šŸ™‚

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