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Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void | [Mary Roach]

Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void

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?
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Audible Editor Reviews

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

Publisher's Summary

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.

What Members Say

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Performance
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  •  
    Greg Wichita, KS, United States 09-30-10
    Greg Wichita, KS, United States 09-30-10 Member Since 2010

    Tell us about yourself!

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Well..............."

    The worst part was the narration by Sandra Burr. If...........she............talked..............any............slower you would fall asleep! I had to listen at 1 1/2 speed, just to listen at a normal pace!

    The book itself was ok. Picture a bunch of interesting tid bits filling up a whole book. It was ok for the first chapter, but then found myself fast forwarding and then skipping chapters. I love the idea about space travel and it is interesting to hear how things came about, but this was just too drawn out and bad narration

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Stephen H. Green 09-30-10 Member Since 2004
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    "Space Fluff"

    I have two concerns about this book: First the book is very light on science and technical details and delves extensively into anything which is salacious or indiscreet. The sections on copulation and defecation were interminable.
    Second, the author argues that if we don't spend 500 billion dollars on sending men to Mars, the government will waste the money in some other, less interesting way. I don't believe that all government spending is wasted and I'm tired of hearing this narrative from all the "drown it in the bathtub" types who are masking their avarice in a cloak of libertarianism.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Steve 09-27-10
    Steve 09-27-10 Listener Since 2010
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Interesting and funny"

    Very interesting information about what astronauts "really" do in space. Mary Roach is a very funny author and adds humor to subjects such as vomiting and going to the "bathroom" in space. However, Sandra Burr isn't a very funny reader. There were a lot of lines in the book that were clearly meant to said with a "wink", but her delivery is flat and often not funny. Disappointment in the narrator aside, I did enjoy this book and learned a lot about the challenges of human space exploration. These are issues that we need to deal with if we're ever going to get off of this rock and it was fun to get a different perspective.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    A . Irborne 09-17-10
    A . Irborne 09-17-10 Member Since 2010

    rc flier

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    "Disappointing"

    This rates WAY down the ladder, if you've heard the autobiographies
    of astronauts like Eugene Cernan and Wally Shirra.
    Also, the details of body function are gross and boring.
    Try again Mary, do a chronicle of the Shuttle missions, only with more
    science and less poop and barf.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Scott Sandy, OR, United States 09-15-10
    Scott Sandy, OR, United States 09-15-10 Member Since 2010
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    "Okay but..."

    Roach is a witty writer but needs to start moving outside the box. This is NOT a book about Mars or planning a trip to Mars. It basically lays out for the reader a history of some of the stranger aspects of space flight. A better title would probably have been Space Oddity 2010

    3 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kai Bexley, OH, United States 09-11-10
    Kai Bexley, OH, United States 09-11-10 Member Since 2015
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    "Sophomoric"

    Rather than a thoughtful and well organized presentation of the challenges and potential for a manned Mars mission the book is a stream of consciousness discourse that features long digressions into if the space chimps were masturbators and whether or not any pornography has been filmed in zero-g. This book feels like a missed opportunity as it is clear that the author did considerable research.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Scott M. 09-10-10
    Scott M. 09-10-10 Member Since 2011

    Scott M.

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    "Good information; not well written"

    I enjoyed the information that was for the most part previously unknown but I felt like I was being read to by June Cleaver. I found it to be written a little too personal from the author's perspective. A bit irritating at times with way too many "notes" with the author's comments. I may have found this more enjoyable if I had read it instead of listening to it in the audio format.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    William Carmichael, CA, United States 08-11-10
    William Carmichael, CA, United States 08-11-10
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    "WARNING! WARNING!"

    DO NOT ATTEMPT TO EAT WHILE LISTENING TO MUCH OF THIS BOOK! To do so may lead to an explosively, vomitous episode.
    Other than that it is funny, entertaining, and you will learn more about being an astronaut than you ever wanted to know!

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Davida West Linn, OR, United States 02-09-12
    Davida West Linn, OR, United States 02-09-12 Member Since 2014

    Davida

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    "My favorite book of the year"

    After listening to this, I bought this book as Christmas presents for all my friends and family. Took a little while to warm up to it, but ultimately found myself laughing and fascinated, often at the same time. Wonderful!

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Spencer 08-05-11
    Spencer 08-05-11
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    "Informative. Sometimes TOO Informative"

    What could have been handled with a maximum of 5 to 8 pages seems to take up six chapters. The issues of space travel and fecal matter, urine, bodily digestive gases, etc., is just way too much information. It seems like the whole second half of this book is dedicated to that kind of thing.

    The rest of the book is fairly interesting, but sometimes just too much meaningless detail.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
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