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.
This book seemed like a scatter shot of information about how different countries plan for space travel. Some of the information is really interesting, a lot of it's not. I just couldn't get into it.
I loved the information and the unique insights this book offers. It's a twist on the typical view of life in the space program and it does try to serve a good amount of humor. I wasn't taken with Sandra's narration however. Overall it felt a little dull but still presented some interesting stories.
I enjoyed this book even more than I thought I would. It's very well researched and goes into impressive detail, but Mary Roach is such a good writer she saves the material from becoming dry. I'd never consider the difficulty of, say, using the toilet in space, but it's quite a feat of engineering to successfully pull it off. This book considers not just the heroics of space travel, but the day to day life as well. What if you can't stand the guy you're stuck in the capsule with? How miserable does life get after two straight weeks in a space suit? A fascinating listen, well narrated, that I can listen to more than once. Highly recommended!
The book content is interesting. But if the audio version is any indication, the format of the book is like a school book report. There is a "note" (indicating, I guess, a footnote) every 2 minutes. This book has more reference notes that a thesis. It may work in the print version, but it is incredibly annoying and unforgiving. An audio version of this type of book should have been modified for the medium so as not to detract from the enjoyment of the book. I'm not even halfway through and I'm gritting my teeth in anticipation of the next annoying "note" that I may need to make an extra appointment with my dentist.
And the author's humor is not coming through at all so that when a wry or humorous comment is made, it at first seems to be just an odd comment. Then, a couple of sentences later, it becomes vaguely apparent that an instance of humor may have just taken place. This may be the narrator's fault, I'm not sure. I'd have to read the print version to know for sure, but I'm barely certain I'm going to make in through to the end of this audio version so, at most, I might get a sample on my Kindle to see if the written word is more conducive to Roach's writing style.
Also, it's hard to know who is saying what and when a new section is being introduced so be prepared to rewind again and again. As with the humor, this seems like the narrator's issue, but I'd have to see the print version to be sure.
It's a shame, because the book's premise is so enticing.
Sandra Burr's performance is totally transparent, and connects you directly with Mary Roach's experiences interviewing astronauts and NASA officials past and present about the more unusual aspects of living in zero gravity.
This is a very interesting book, but nothing to do with preparing go to mars at all, it is all about space travel in general. I was hoping for some specific challenges associated with a mars mission.
Also the author spends too much time on the absolute miniature of some of the more dull aspects of specetravel. We'll yes thats the point of the book but some snappier editing would have been appreciated
this might be the worst narration i've heard. its actually a fairly decent book and an interesting topic but i cant tolerate the narration. please take a sample listen before you purchase this book.
This book got so much press I had high expectations......they were not met.
the content is interesting but the intensely repetitive format gets irritating quickly. how many times do we have to here "note" followed by mildly amusing facts and largely irrelevant antic dotes. This book has huge potential that just wasn't met in my opinion. the author is a brilliant researcher and would no doubt be a riot to speak with in person but the format of this book reads like a power point presentation complete with excessive bullet points. The narrator has not got the voice or personality to read highly ironic content such as this. she sounds like she's reading the phone book line for line.
Expectations - not met, Press - over hyped. But still a talented non fiction writer just needs spit and polish and an entirely new narrator.
Too long and repetetive. This book did not live up to expectations. Far too much emphasis on astronauts bowel habits
I loved this book. Mary Roach wrote an insightful, quirky and fascinating book. Sandra Burr was a wonderful narrator. I would recommend Packing for Mars not just someone who has an interest in the space program but to everyone who has ever wondered what it really takes to even get to outer space.
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