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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.

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  • Overall
  • Janet
  • Concord, NH, United States
  • 08-18-10

The Every Day Mundane Details of Space Travel

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.

7 of 9 people found this review helpful

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  • Jeff
  • Pickering, Ontario, Canada
  • 04-05-12

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.

6 of 8 people found this review helpful

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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

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Some interesting anecdotes, but...

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

7 of 10 people found this review helpful

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  • Thomas
  • Sewell, NJ, United States
  • 09-15-11

Well, so so.. ummm. Not what it says it is.. Sorry

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.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Not about Mars

This could have been titled ???Training at NASA,??? but it was not about Mars, science, or ???the void.??? I counted the word ???Mars??? being used 11 times throughout the whole book. There was no information on the preparation necessary to plan a trip to Mars. Half of the text was annoyingly bracketed in incessant ???note/end note??? pairs.

9 of 13 people found this review helpful

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  • Gillette
  • Lawrence, KS, United States
  • 12-08-10

amazingly well done

I am very interested in all things space-related, but I hesitated to purchase this item because I've seen and read the exact same information about America's space program SO many times that I was afraid of more of the same. I think I've seen every minute of original footage with and without commentary, I've been on every space center tour more than once, went to space camp as a kid, and have read probably 50 books and autobiographies relating to America's space program. To my delight, almost every anecdote in this book is entirely new to me. It is wonderfully original and thorough and delightfully odd-ball at the same time.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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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".

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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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.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Hilarious, with many surprising facts

As a newcomer to the space industry, I was hoping to learn more about what its like to be an astronaut, I did.

The author shares many surprising and detailed facts about the lives of astronauts and what really happens in space.