Anyone searching for a laugh-out-loud selection should look no farther than Sandra Burr’s performance of Mary Roach’s Packing for Mars. Those who have enjoyed Roach’s previous books (Stiff, Spook, and Bonk) will not be disappointed by this latest offering. Packing for Mars presents listeners with the quirky realities of space travel usually left out of NASA press releases or articles celebrating the latest accomplishments of space missions.
Sandra Burr captures the humorous, sometimes snarky, but always fascinating bits of information that up to now most of us have managed to live without. For example, while we all know that Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin planted an American flag on the moon, Packing for Mars tells us how folks at NASA figured out how to pack the darn thing. We also know that astronauts have ways to answer nature’s call while in space, but from Roach’s book we learn of the experiments that went into perfecting the winning contraption to allow such activity.
Burr’s recitation of Roach’s footnotes is especially entertaining. In these asides are gems of arcane knowledge, including talking toilet paper dispensers at NASA, why there were no “chimp-o-nauts”, and the cocktail party conversation-starter that rabbits and guinea pigs are the only mammals not to suffer from motion sickness.
Throughout Packing for Mars Sandra Burr give lively readings of conversations between astronauts, either from their interviews with the author or read as bits of dialogue from space mission transcripts. Burr’s tone when expressing astronaut Jim Lovell’s irritation at the mission nutritionist’s poor packaging of messy space food should amuse listeners. Equally fun is the depiction of the back-and-forth between Command Pilot James McDivitt and Astronaut Ed White as McDivitt tries to coax an unwilling White, outside of the space module for the first US “space walk”, to come back inside before his oxygen runs out.
Burr’s talent is in full force when she is interpreting the author’s descriptions of pre-spaceflight training. “Weightless Flight Regurgitation Phenomenon” is discussed in detail as is the too-much-information quality of the Soviet’s “Restricted Hygiene Experiments”. From “space euphoria” to “the space stupids”, Burr’s presentation of Mary Roach’s Packing for Mars will cause chuckles that will necessitate explaining to those in close proximity that you are listening to a really funny book. Carole Chouinard
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.
©2010 Mary Roach (P)2010 Brilliance Audio, Inc.
Something's missing. Can't really put my finger to it, but being an engineer myself, I would've wanted perhaps more engineerish information rather than just the too-muc-detail toilet descriptions :) But overall this was an interesting book and well worth the listen. Mary has gone through a lot of research to put this together and I certainly look at all the astronauts in a different, more human way after reading this. Thanks for sharing!
I'm the kind of reader that finishes a book (along with all its sequels), no matter how bad it can be. Of the 65-plus audio books I have listened to, this is the first one I just could not finish no matter how hard I tried. I got as far as the second half of the book, but I found myself dozing off behind the wheel during my hour long drive to and from work. I started listening to audio books to keep me AWAKE during these dreadful drives, not the other way around. I still have over four hours left, and maybe I will go back and finish it in the future, when I have nothing else in my library.
I'm a country potter, gardener, flute player and tin tinker living with my husband, an electrical engineer & cabinet maker.
I became a Mary Roach fan with Stiff and I see no end in sight. She has a wonderful way of moistening dry facts with opinion and circumstance to create a delightful fare of information and entertainment.
I'm 66. I've read Audiobooks now for 6 years. After an assault, I had minor brain damage and couldn't read. Audible got me back to books
Packing For Mars, while factual in the history of space flight, does not address the title of the book. Most of Packing For Mars is information covering the history of space rockets. I was expecting a book about the ideas, facts, current work, and the future of missions to the Red Planet. Roach's book does not deliver on it's expectations.
I enjoy Mary Roach's books and have read several of them. I downloaded this one to listen to in the car, but it's been hard. I actually had to stop listening to it because it was hard to stay on topic in my head with the multitude of footnotes Ms. Roach includes. So, I think this is probably a good book, but listening to it is difficult.
I love the conclusion of this book: “Mars is there! RIGHT THERE! You can see it from here! LET’S GO!” (paraphrasing slightly, I’m afraid). And overall this is an enjoyable trip through the back halls of the space program. The ostensible thread through the book is how we can prepare for a trip to Mars and what’s been done so far to meet specific challenges. In reality, however, this is a bit like reading The National Inquirer Meets NASA as told by George Carlin. Mary Roach is always respectful to the men and women behind the space program, but you get the feeling that she kept saying “And isn’t there any little tidbit you can share? Just between us? Promise I won’t tell!”. Oh, and that she has or knows a five your old boy and based some of her humor on his reactions. Fair warning: the chapter on toilets in space will be side-splitting if you like bathroom humor and pretty gross if you don’t.
To be fair, she does throw herself into her research. She relates first hand experience with some of the research and testing NASA is doing, and she isn’t afraid to make fun of herself. And there were times when I was laughing out loud. Seriously, why would an organization dedicated to launching people into space on the tops of guided missiles be so obsessively concerned about slip hazards?
So, look elsewhere if you want scientific rigour or high adventure. But get this book if you want a lighthearted look at the past and future space program with some behind the scenes coverage.
Note- This book was a real stinker. End note. I have a terrible habit of having to listen to all of any book I pay for, and I did this one but it WAS a chore. Mind numbingly boring, with a dull monotone narration that drove me nuts. Somehow, any book I listen to with a woman narrator has this woman reading it- I WILL make a note to check in the future! She did seem well suited to the hour plus part about fecal matter. Sheesh, never again.
My preference for a good story is something totally unusual and not run of the mill stuff. Give me something I haven't heard before.
This is some funny but informative stuff about sending humans into space. There's things in here that we would not even think about because we react to gravity here on earth. Out there, all bets are off. What a fun book. Well done, Mary Roach.
This book deals mostly with the difficulties of sending humans into orbit, to space stations or to the moon and such. The problems which have to be surmounted have probably occurred to most of us..... astronaut nutrition, handling bodily wastes, the inability to bathe, etc. The solutions to these problems are delved into in great and nauseating detail. Details I'd probably rather not know; flatulence in a confined space, solid waste escaping and bouncing off the walls and the suggestion of eating dirty worn clothes (made of some edible fiber) on the trip home from Mars, say, to save having to carry so much food. Made me think what nasty things these returning space capsules must be, not to mention the astronauts themselves. A well-researched book with lots of interesting tidbits, it you can stomach them.
i love too read and have people read to me...
I wasn't sure what to expect from this one. i got it during the paperback sale(i'm so stoked when audible does those kinds of things, if you re reading this mr. audible; thank you!!!) so for five bucks, i took a shot...
this one was awesome! the narration is five star and "story" is as well. its not a story in the sense where there are characters and they get in a space ship and fly to mars, or whatever. it's written like a news column or article. it tells the true story, a sort of tongue in cheek take on the space program. the stuff you wouldn't think of when thinking of space flight. what do they eat, where do they sleep, how do you poo in zero g? this one is worth the credit, money whatever. don't miss it!!!
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