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.
A reader of biographies, history, and other non-fiction
The author gets off to a strong start, describing challenges of space travel for humans but quickly runs out of gas and rambles, rambles, rambles. She has a preocculation with bodily functions - yes, defecating in weightlessness is a challenge, but how many chapters can one carp on this topic. Do I really need to know that the author has no body odor - how relevant is that to space travel? This book just spins and spins, like an untethered austronaut.
By listening to this book, I learned no new information. Most of what is written there seems common knowledge to me. No revelations...
I heart mysteries, political non-fiction, and memoirs, especially all in one book.
Sandra Burr does a fantastic job of reading Roach's story. Reading the book without Burr makes it feel like something is missing. The writing is smart and informative. I've remained riveted throughout the book.
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.
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