09 June 2011

Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void


If you’re like me and don’t read a lot of non-fiction but feel you should read more of it and have the intentions…Mary Roach is a great place to start. I’d read one of her books previously, Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers, and I felt like she was someone I would get along with in real life. She would fit right in with my family and would “get” our humor.

My sister used to work in payroll at Space Center Houston, touted on their website as the “Official Visitor’s Center of NASA’s Johnson Space Center”. When we visited her one summer, she took us on a tour, and thanks to her connection I’ve always been interested in NASA and what’s going on there.

In her book, Ms. Roach takes us way behind the scenes. You’ll learn more about space exploration and preparation than you ever thought you wanted to. The book touches on gravity, psychology, a crash test lab, how to eat in space, how to use the bathroom in space, etc. While not laugh out loud funny, the author does present everything in a humorous way, so what could at times be a dry and boring subject will keep your interest.

She also includes lots of footnotes and asides, some of which have nothing to do with space itself. Such as the fact that in 1947 we accidentally bombed Mexico, luckily missing downtown Juarez by three miles. And after quoting an astronaut saying he was “sick as a dog”, she then goes on to describe an actual research study, where dogs were taken out on a boat in rough weather to see how sick they would become. You’re not gonna learn this stuff anywhere else!

(I received this book earlier this month through Book Crossing.)

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