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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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  •  
    Mobilis saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada 09-21-10
    Mobilis saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada 09-21-10
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    "So. Much. FUN!"

    Packing for Mars is an exceptionally fun listen; it's fast-paced and well narrated, and all in all, a great book.

    It's less about Mars than it is about space travel in general, and the intricacies of day-to-day life aboard a spacecraft, and sheds a lot of light on all the things one never really thinks about when they think of astronauts.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    CHET YARBROUGH LAS VEGAS, NEVADA, United States 07-05-14
    CHET YARBROUGH LAS VEGAS, NEVADA, United States 07-05-14 Member Since 2014

    Faced with mindless duty, when an audio book player slips into a rear pocket and mini buds pop into ears, old is made new again.

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    "SPACE TRAVEL GUIDE"

    Mary Roach explores everything from sex to bowel movements in her outer space travel guide, “Packing for Mars”. Roach participates in some NASA training to get a first hand experience of what it takes to be a space traveler. She experiences weightlessness in 22 second intervals. She floats like a butterfly while some of her space mates puke breakfast and lunch.

    Roach does use humor to explain what space travel takes but looking past the humor one is overwhelmed by the gap between current science and technology and human travel to other planets.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jeff Pickering, Ontario, Canada 04-05-12
    Jeff Pickering, Ontario, Canada 04-05-12 Member Since 2014

    54 yrs, ,memb 12yrs,library -75%nonfic 10% fiction,15% classics. History, all sciences, bio, classics,diverse other interests.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "POOP AND PEE PEE ARE FUNNY"

    If your just dying to know what astronauts do with their excretions this is the book for you! If your interests go beyond corpses ( her book STIFF) or the potty habits of astronauts (this crap filled book) you might want to use your credits elsewhere. I'm just trying to think of what low brow desperate attempt for sales her next book will be about. Masturbation stories of the rich and famous perhaps. Guilty pleasures if nothing else. Her books are like car accidents, you cant help but look. Question is... are you willing to pay to look.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Grant NANTUCKET, MA, United States 03-02-12
    Grant NANTUCKET, MA, United States 03-02-12 Member Since 2009

    caffeinated

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    "Interesting, funny, worthwhile"

    Mary Roach seems to be able to make the most ordinary stuff sound interesting. Even aerosolized feces in zero-G.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    robert los angeles, CA, United States 08-24-10
    robert los angeles, CA, United States 08-24-10
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    "Do not listen to this while you are driving"

    It could be dangerous because the narration is sooooo boring and robotic you may fall asleep. It's too bad because the content of the book is pretty good, but the narration is just horrible and near impossible to withstand for more than a few minutes at a time.

    8 of 10 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Suzn F Fletcher, VT, US 08-17-10
    Suzn F Fletcher, VT, US 08-17-10 Member Since 2013

    I believe a reviewer should finish a book before submitting a review. What do you think?

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    "Interesting information about secretions"

    The book was pretty much in line with some of the other books authored by Mary Roach. She really can make a technical subject more interesting than expected.
    However, this one was very preoccupied with the astronauts bodily functions. So kinda cool, but it became a bit of more of the same after a while for me. It was okay.

    8 of 10 people found this review helpful
  •  
    David 10-30-11
    David 10-30-11
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    "Some interesting anecdotes, but..."

    Some interesting anecdotes, but mostly very dull, very dull, very dull, very dull, very dull.

    4 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Lyle Houston, TX, United States 08-30-12
    Lyle Houston, TX, United States 08-30-12 Member Since 2014
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    "Light on science"
    What disappointed you about Packing for Mars?

    I expected to learn a lot, but this book is not really geared for engineering and science types. More discussion about vomit and astronaut toilet activities than I expected or wanted.


    Would you ever listen to anything by Mary Roach again?

    Probably not


    Did the narration match the pace of the story?

    Yes


    If you could play editor, what scene or scenes would you have cut from Packing for Mars?

    A lot of the vomit and 'ejecta' talk.


    Any additional comments?

    Should really be called "Gross Astronaut Trivia for Non-Scientists".

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    bill doyle adelaide, south australia 08-20-12
    bill doyle adelaide, south australia 08-20-12 Member Since 2011

    Bloke who took to audiobooks in order to beguile long hours on the road travelling to photography gigs across his home state. Now addicted!

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    "Make it Mullane's!"

    I've titled this review in honour of the recommendation that the author makes in a footnote that if you read one astronaut's account of their time in space, you should make it Mike Mullane's.

    The footnoted incident itself caused me some degree of embarrassment, as I burst out laughing loudly - and, to passersby, inexplicably - while strolling down my suburban main street listening to the book on my iPod - via discreet in-canal ear-buds - doubtlessly further enhancing my local reputation for eccentricity.

    This book is popular science writing at its best. The topic is fascinating, the pacing is excellent, and the whole mixture is leavened with good humour. And unexpectedly broad interest: being the only non-seasick member of an otherwise green-of-gill family, the extensive discussion of motion sickness was both intriguing, and surprisingly relevant to non-cosmonautic life.

    There's an unimaginably dazzling array of little things that goes into launching squishy, emotional and erratic humans into space. And big things, of course. This book is an outstanding description of the place where humanity meets technology, at the very edge of the most desolate void we could ever conceive of encountering.

    And it's also a great account of the vast teams of researchers and technicians that lie behind the space-jockeys.

    A great listen. And dazzling well read.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Wade T. Brooks Portland, OR, USA 06-25-12
    Wade T. Brooks Portland, OR, USA 06-25-12 Member Since 2010
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    "Recreational Reading"

    There were a few interesting tidbits in this book. It is ostensibly a serious book about space travel and going to mars but it felt more like a book written for teenagers. To that point, the author is fascinated with '€˜poop'€™, '€˜pee'€™ and sex in space. Clearly these are topics that are important, especially if you are planning a long term trip in outer space, but I was looking for something with a little more substance. I'€™ll categorize it as recreational reading where you gain a few answers to trivial pursuit questions.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
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