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 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.
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.
Bloke who took to audiobooks in order to beguile long hours on the road travelling to photography gigs across his home state. Now addicted!
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.
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.
mostly nonfiction listener
Mary Roach's "Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void" is the perfect book for anyone who is curious about the ins and outs (literally) of space travel.
How astronauts urinate and defecate in space, and how this process has changed from the early Apollo missions to the space shuttle to the space station.
How sex in space would work, and if anyone has ever given it a shot.
How space food is produced and consumed, and why we would not want to have NASA take over our campus dining services.
What an astronaut really does in the 99% of the time she is not in space, and what NASA (and the Russian and Japanese space agencies) look for in a potential recruit.
How astronauts train, getting used to the rigors of zero gravity, the boredom, and the need to spend 24 hours a day with your co-workers without ever being able to leave.
Why Mary Roach thinks manned space exploration should continue, and why spending the $500 billion or so to get to Mars is a good investment.
I'm a big fan of Mary Roach's books. She has covered sex (Bonk), death (Stiff), and ghosts (Spook). The only problem with "Packing for Mars" is that the title is too long.
And in the category of, "oh what a small world we live in", it turns out that Mary Roach grew up in the small town in which I now reside. Mary, you are welcome to stay at the house if you ever want to come and visit.
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.
I mean it was narrated ok, but it wasn't what the title said it was. All stories and interesting tidbits about the first monkey in space, the first dog, what happened to them, first astronaut, all the old missions. I sort of feel a bit cheated out of the Packing for Mars stuff. Ok, good history, and interesting info about odd things, but I went through a full three-quarters of the book and still waiting for the info about Packing for Mars. So, I'm done. Even if it turns around and present the new info now, its way to late in the book. Not to happy. Now if you just want to hear about the old stuff and funny things that happened along the way, get it. But it should be called, "Funny and Odd Stuff that happened over all the previous missions.....Even "Curious Sience for life in the Void" would be accurate, but the packing for mars seems like a publishers suggested add on to make the content seem more modern and sell more.
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.
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
"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.
"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.
"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.
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