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.
Like all of Mary Roach's work, this is a really fun book to listen to! It's actually a little more well-organized than her previous work, but just as much fun. Her humor and accessibility are still at 100%!
My only complaint is similar to all of her work - there could be more science here. The lay public CAN handle science, and holding back on it does a disservice to those of us who crave more.
First I should mention that this book has almost nothing to do with a journey to Mars, and not very much to do with what to bring when going into space.
What we have here is an extremely detailed recounting of the biological, psychological, and hygiene problems that astronauts have in space -- with a strong focus on the US space flights of the 1960s. If you want to know whether it's hard to urinate in zero gravity, or whether the inside of a space capsule smells bad, or whether astronauts are annoyed by their schedules, this is your book. It was all kind of interesting, but not what I was looking for. I now have visions of floating turds inside a space capsule that are pretty hard to unsee.
Also, the author thinks she is funny, and thinks we want to hear all about how she looked into these topics, what the people she interviewed are like at lunchtime, and whether she enjoyed learning about each subject. Frankly I got pretty tired of learning about her and her unimportant reactions, as opposed to the actual (icky) subjects.
Not having read anything else by this author, I was expecting something more erudite and scholarly. What I got instead is puerile and superficial. I stopped listening after the third chapter but, figuring that I'd already paid for it, finally resumed listening at 2x speed, just so I could get through it as quickly as possible. The humor is often gratuitous and juvenile. The writing is only slightly better than Susan Casey's The Wave--another waste of a valuable Audible credit. If you are looking for a serious book about the psychological and physical challenges of human space travel, I would recommend Buzz Aldrin's memoir, Magnificent Desolation.
I've never been that interested in space travel, but I loved this book and was sad when it ended. I will definitely get more of Mary Roach's books.
The title implies a look at what needs to be done to send a manned mission to Mars, a subject barely skirted in this often-entertaining historical summary of the challenges of weightless travel in confined space. Mary Roach explores the difficulties of eating, defecating, and mating in a zero-gravity environment with the excessive enthusiasm of your typical middle schooler. I would have preferred a little less discussion of how pornography has depicted zero-gravity sex and a little more discussion of how artificial gravity might be generated or why it would be impractical to do so. A discussion of speed limitations and alternative launch strategies might also have enhanced the book.
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.
Report Inappropriate Content