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.
Mary Roach is smart, funny and a terrific writer. This book was as good if not better than all her others. She has a talent for science writing - explaining complicated science using clear, memorable prose. She asked all the questions of the "Everyman" and a whole lot more! She not only interviewed NASA folks but also Japanese and Russian astronauts giving a still broader view of space flight
I can't wait to see what she writes about next
Sandra Burr delivers a spot on performance as well.
Mary Roach has applied her keen research skill and packaged her keen insights, once again, for us in "Packing for Mars." The result is one wild ride through space programs in the US and abroad. Crew compatability, the vagaries of bowel elimination, sex in space, food preparation, and taking (or not taking) a shower is all here. The result is a delightful, informative, thought provokiing insight into space travel, engineering, and human behavior.
This is a great listen to have on the MP3 on a long drive. It keeps your attention, informs, and makes the time fly by. The writing is good and topically organized. The reading of Sandra Burr is excellent.
NOTE: There is a section dealing with sexual matters which you may or may not want to play when younger companions are about. If you car pool with sensitive people, perhaps you should listen to that section in a different locaion.
Very entertaining and fascinating! Mary Roach explains everything from bone loss to space bathrooms and everything inbetween. I wasn't even that interested in the subject to begin with but like her previous books I found myself completely enthralled.
I wasn't sure to expect when I started reading this book, so I left my expectations at the cover. Just let Mary and Sandra lead the way. Having finished the book, I can say that had anyone else read it or if I had tried to read it myself, I might have not gotten as much out of it as I did. Sandra does a good job putting emphasis where I think Mary wanted it.
Prepare to embark on a journey of nausea, potty training, a bit of history, aero- and astrodynamics, and other stuff NASA doesn't like to talk about on a day-to-day basis. Expect to learn more about these things than you ever thought you could or would, and laugh while you do.
I'd recommend this book to anyone with an interest in space or aviation. Everyone else would enjoy the book as well, but not as much as someone who has in interest in the subjects discussed. Whether you are drawn to aviation and space, or have a fear of heights, you will still enjoy this book and probably come away with a better appreciation for everyone involved in any space agency.
I enjoyed this book and it's unique look at the mundane aspects of space travel. However, the title is a tad misleading as the book deals primarily with previous space missions and really speaks very little about aspect particular to a manned mars mission. While still enjoyable I would have like to hear more specifics about future mars missions.
You know that soft, metered female voice that seems to be part of any automated phone service? That's precisely who's reading this book and it dulls down an otherwise humorous and interesting subject.
Listen to the sample first! This might be a better book to buy in black & white
If Mary Roach releases a book, I buy it. I hadn't realised that until I had purchased this one before finishing reading the TITLE.
She did not disappoint. The book is fascinating, honest, entertaining, and FUN. And the reader does a fantastic job as well. If you liked her other stuff, get this. If you haven't read her other stuff, get this, then that. :D
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.
Never has the importance of a reader in creating the enjoyment of a book been more apparent than with this book. I listened to "Stiff" by the same author and loved it so much that I raced to download "Packing for Mars". What a disappointment. Sandra Burr was boring and couldn't capture the humorous side of Roach's writing. I'm sure the content of each book was equal but the reading made a gigantic difference in its appreciation. Nevertheless, the book had tons of fascinating information. Mary Roach has the rare skill of taking the most mundane situations of life and addresses their complications when they are placed in outer space. For example, who would think that sex would be so difficult in a space station. How about going to the bathroom? How about not showering for six weeks? Ugh!
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