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.
So some of this book is a bit boring and some of the science stuff lost me, but she also has a wonderful way of making certain things interesting. How do they go to the bathroom in space and what do they talk about to control. I especially enjoyed telling my 12 year old son and his friends about vomiting in space and other gross details that they loved. I found it fascinating and surprising.
Nothing against the narrator- I think the issue was the material.
The incessant footnotes don't transition well to the audiobook form. There were too many interruptions in the story.
I would create separate chapters for the footnote topics, and cut out the juvenile discussions of test monkey/chimp behavior.
I would advise my fellow listeners not to waste a credit on this one. Overall, it had a low-brow feel.
Yes, if they like science and sociology.
Hmmm... couldn't say.
The reading was a bit monotone but it more or less suited the subject matter. I thought it was good.
I laughed a lot. I also recounted many of the stories to other people.
It was an amazingly interesting book.
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.
I bought this book on a whim but what a interesting book it goes right into the detail of man space flight and explains a lot of thing the TV never told us, I listen to my books while walking to work but with this one I made up walks just to listen to it!
I fully recommend it if you have half a interest in space flight
"Great book, horrible narration"
Pushes all my favourite buttons...geeky, funny and thoroughly entertaining.
I got the audiobook from Audible before I bought the hardback, and hated it - the reader they used has such a mechanical, robotic sounding voice and flat delivery that not an iota of humour survived, and it was so monotonous that I couldn't concentrate on it. However, I could tell there was a great book struggling to make itself heard so I bought the hard copy and I'm very glad I did.
"My best audiobook purchase yet"
Bought this book on a whim, based on another good review, and I wasn't dissapointed. This was a fantastically engrossing book, highly accessible and endlessy engaging.
"Good story but a cynical narration"
I struggled to finish it. mainly the cynical tone of the narrator was not palatable.
"If you're interested in space and like QI this may be your thing"
I wouldn't normally go for a non fiction audiobook but this book is well worth the break in the norm. It's full of facts and narrated excellently. If you're even glancingly interested in what's involved in space travel & if you like a multitude of interesting tidbits then this is the book for you.
"My worst download yet!"
I was looking forward to hearing this but sadly I found it annoying. It was not only the reader's delivery, as another reviewer mentioned, it was the writing. This woman seems obsessed with lavatorial issues and sex. This would be ok it it wasn't treated in such a 'nudge-nudge' schoolgirlish way.. Couldn't wait for it to be finished to be honest!
"Packing for Mars"
I waited for this book to come out for absolutely ages but was somewhat disappointed in the result - too much anticipation, I suppose. There was considerable research, all no doubt solid and reliable, but the author did rather harp on certain subjects to the point of irritation - enough already, move on, I've got the point! There were times, too, when I had to fast forward, such was the graphic nature of the content, but it was all in the interests of science so relevant to the subject matter. It is a little out of date, given the latest developments in space science, but might become a school text book at some stage in the future, now that the space shuttle has been moth-balled. All round, it was interesting, though the narrator's rather high pitched nasal voice began to grate after a while.
"Yet another great book"
I can't add much to the other reviews except to say the book manages to walk a fine line between technical explanations and funny stories, and does it brilliantly. It's the epitome of popular science, and very easy to listen to. I was quite surprised by the appearance of Sylvia Saint (well, the mention of her - she didn't agree to an interview) but am impressed by the author's dedication to finding out everything about the indignities of space flight. The one thing that did drive me a little bit mad was the constant 'note' interruption - I imagine this would have been just as irritating in the print version, but foot notes REALLY don't work well in audio form, not in the middle of chapters. Based on this title, I also read two more of her books and they maintain the same high standard.
"10/10 wud ign"
it was so gud it wus sheet. so I change my mind 0/10 wud machinima
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