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.
I had such a good time reading this book. The kinds of things NASA had to think of and create solutions for, that wouldn't even cross a normal person's mind like "What happens if you puke in your helmet" had me reading this book well into the night. So cool and a must for any "space junkie" like me.
The list of problems we need solutions for (for the long flight and safe return home of humans) still sticks with me.
Mary Roach does not hold back and I love it! And space travel has always fascinated me. She tells all the interesting details about space travel in general that I never would have learned anywhere else. And there were a couple of times that I laughed my ass off.
No way. Narrator was boring . She should record "Put to sleep" books instead
Boring Boring Boring .. just like this review you are reading...
The author does a good job describing the preparations that must be made for a trip to Mars. Everything from food to poop is covered. She had amazing access to the astronauts, NASA staff and other researchers...even the "three dolphin club." I think that I'll read another Mary Roach book, but not for awhile.
Great job exploring the challenges of space travel. Sandra Burr's narration really brought to life Mary's funny questions and observations. Book kept me interested and amused.
An endless trove of behind-the-scenes stories, highly personal details and quirky humor. The reading captures every nuance of the authors wit and snark.
Plenty of snippets of transcripts from various missions, crisp descriptions and concise writing.
Multiple LOL moments in here. This will be worth listening to again.
I would have liked a little more forward-looking material, but I suspect she feared it would make the book out-dated. BUt overall, an excellent book and a fine performance.
I'm a humble Public Servant working for county government. I enjoy futuristic Sci fi, murder mysteries, Tim Dorsey, & dystopian genres.
The beginning was really slow. A nice "punch" to get it going would have better held my interest.
It really didn't make a lot sense from the get go. I read a lot of Sci-fi, which is why I reached for a new author. This story never hooked me.
The narrator could have used more emotion; but I doubt it would've made a difference for me.
This book was not for me. I took a chance and came back with nothing. However, I will continue to look for new & different authors to try. That's why books are so great. Everyone has story.
I'm a writer and a yoga teacher with a Masters in English Literature.
I would, because I think Mary Roach is funny and I have a new perspective on space travel now. It's taken some of the romance out of Star Trek, though!
Basically the book is about the human body, not about space. We learn a lot about how the body works by considering what will happen to it in space and in anti gravity. The chapter on poo was way too long, and followed by the chapter on vomit--it was sort of interesting, but just disgusting and not always worth listening to. I guess I wanted more fascinating aspects of space, but I got a lot of poop jokes instead. I didn't like that aspect. I preferred Mary Roach's book about sex, and I want to read the others of hers (I tried listening to Spook, but the narrator made the book sound incredibly racist, so I couldn't finish it).
Yes, definitely worth the listening time.
Not only did she research "private" areas about space travel, but it was hysterical. Everyone thinks of space as this clean, zero-gravity container. But it can be totally disgusting! I have a new respect for astronauts.
i really enjoy Mary Roach's writing style and the subjects she tackles. therefore i would almost blindly recommend her to anyone who enjoys learning while being entertained. as i am studying, and usually taking very challenging classes it usually takes me 2 or 3 tries to get through one of her books. this is because her books draw my attention from what i am doing and i find myself just listening if i am doing something deeper than folding laundry. if you are mentally taxed right now you may not make it through the first time, but it won't be due to lack of interest. (note: if one is attempting to dissect human cadavers for future classes to study, this is not the book to listen to while doing so. one's quality of work decreases.)
Report Inappropriate Content