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.
I liked the book because of some interesting facts in it, but I think, I would've enjoyed it more if the narrator was reading it with some more excitement. For me, every joke fell flat because of her reading and had to listen on twice the normal speed, so it wouldn't seem so slow.
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.
I believe a reviewer should finish a book before submitting a review. What do you think?
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.
I've already replayed the section on zero-gravity toilet facilities for my son. It's very informative and also hilarious
Well, I'd never thought about the fact that a person's internal organs are suspended in the body. Gravity significantly defines our figures. So in zero gravity, the organs tend to float upwards, leading to skinny waists and bloated upper bodies. There are lots of other things to think about, like zero-gravity bone loss or motion sickness and what to do if you vomit inside your space suit. You can't reach up and wipe your face, and with no gravity to keep the puke at the bottom of the helmet bowl, it can be a real hazard. Fascinating.
I don't remember. I can say, though, that after listening to this, I was about to get "Spook," Roach's book about scientific experiments on the afterlife. Another subscriber had commented that the reader there was too heavy-handed, loading up Roach's writing with her own overdone delivery. So I didn't order that.
I think the best approach with most good books is to get out of the way and let the story tell itself. This reader did seem to enjoy the material, but she had the good sense not to get in the way.
I laughed a lot. I can't say that I was absolutely moved by Roach's concluding chapter, where she makes her case for spending more money on space exploration, but that's because it was so little poetry and so much just good solid reasoning. It left me thinking not, "This is inspirational," but "This is our job. This is what we need to put our money into, to make sure we do it right, because our future depends on it."
One of the nice things about this book is its commonsense foundation. It treats space exploration as something we are going to do, something practical, not some romantic once-in-a-lifetime movie but real, day-to-day work, carried out by human beings, something we can all have a part in. It made me think of the Vikings pushing off for Greenland, or of people like Magellan. By showing the practicalities of life in space, many of which are similar to the inconveniences and compromises and seamanship of shipboard life on the ocean, Roach helps to advance the public discussion of day-to-day space voyaging.
Very, very occasionally, Roach makes one joke or pun too many and I think to myself, "oh, come on. This is funny enough on its own." But that's a very small objection.
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.
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.
I really enjoined this book, it was entertaining and informative. The only thing that kept me from giving it 5 stars is that Roach goes off on some tangents in this, I mean she really gets to the bottom of stuff - almost to a fault.
Mary Roach seems to be able to make the most ordinary stuff sound interesting. Even aerosolized feces in zero-G.
Excellent information, very funny too. Unfortunately it is composed of a large number of footnotes which doesn't translate well into an audiobook. Very start/stop story telling.
Shame though as it was well read and the material was interesting.
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.
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