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Editorial 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

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Tina
  • Honokaa, HI, United States
  • 10-23-15

Intelligent, educational & humorous!

Love everything I've read by Mary Roach. She does her research and it shows. Never want her books to end!

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Fun and informative

If you haven't gotten around to actually finding out how space travellers use a toilet in weightlessness or what Jim Lowell endured on the Gemini 7 flight, then listen to this book. I thoroughly enjoyed it :-)

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Great listen

So many human things that get in the way of space travel. The author has fantastic behind the scenes stories of the not so glorious side of space. She definitely did her homework on this book, and it makes for a fascinating listen.

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Excellent book, poorly produced

If you could sum up Packing for Mars in three words, what would they be?

Mary Roach's dry wit deserved a few pauses. Her fabulous one-liners are rushed into the next segment. Narrator great, producer BAD!

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Author's groan-inducing sense of humor ruins it

What disappointed you about Packing for Mars?

There is a lot of great research behind this book, and the information conveyed is very interesting. I just couldn't get past the author's sense of humor. It was painful, and I almost gave up on the book several times. I will not listen to anything by this author again.

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  • John
  • Shoreline, WA United States
  • 08-22-15

Pretty Dumb

Would you try another book from Mary Roach and/or Sandra Burr?

No, Mary Roach proved that she's more into gossip than the science of spaceflight.

What was most disappointing about Mary Roach’s story?

There was too much emphasis on gossip about sex in space and fart jokes and not much actual information. And it had nothing about a serious mission to Mars.

What didn’t you like about Sandra Burr’s performance?

She was terrible. Her voice was like reading fairy tales. Believe it or not, she actually pronounced the acronym for extra vehicular activities, E.V.A., "Eva," like a woman's name.

You didn’t love this book... but did it have any redeeming qualities?

I learned some things about the Russian flights that I hadn't previously learned because she had some extensive interviews with some of their cosmonauts.

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Was hoping for better...

What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

I did not like the book.

What do you think your next listen will be?

Rocket Men

How did the narrator detract from the book?

It did not.

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

I did not find the book to be interesting.

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I've got my bags packed

I read Mary Roach's "Stiff" book so when I saw this book on Audible I jumped at the chance to listen to it. Sandra Burr was the perfect narrator, I normally listen to books read by men and this was a refreshing change from overly dramatic readings that some men do. This book was written before Felix Baumgautners(spelling?) Red Bull jump and it was interesting to hear about preparations for that and a little more why he did it.
The book does at sometimes feel like Roach either got the idea to write the book from her notes of her other books: Gulp, Bonk and Stiff. I am glad she did though because her writing style has just the right amount of information and humor to keep me interested.
I hope to see manned space mission to Mars in my lifetime. The scientists and volunteers devoted to this prospect deserve all the praise and recognition we can give them.

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  • David
  • Hoeilaart, Belgium
  • 08-14-15

Misleading title

This is mostly a collection of lessons and events from the Mercury and Gemini space missions. The Apollo, Shuttle, and ISS eras are given short attention, and yet aren't they the periods that are more relevant to a flight to Mars? In fact, the logistics of getting to Mars and back are barely mentioned. What are the scientific obstacles and technical challenges that need to be overcome?

I have the feeling that the publishers just wanted a catchy title. This is the third book by Roach that I have listened to and her snarky sense of humor is starting to wear thin.

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A Little Too Sh!++¥ for Me...

The book is cool, concept it is interesting, but wow does Mary Roach put an overriding foci on what's coming out of the back end of the astronauts much more than the astronauts themselves!