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

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

by Mary Roach

NOOK Book(eBook)

$9.99 $15.95 Save 37% Current price is $9.99, Original price is $15.95. You Save 37%. View All Available Formats & Editions

Available on Compatible NOOK Devices and the free NOOK Apps.
WANT A NOOK?  Explore Now


“America’s funniest science writer” (Washington Post) explores the irresistibly strange universe of life without gravity in this New York Times bestseller.

The best-selling author of Stiff and Bonk explores the irresistibly strange universe of space travel and life without gravity. From the Space Shuttle training toilet to a crash test of NASA’s new space capsule, Mary Roach takes us on the surreally entertaining trip into the science of life in space and space on Earth.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780393079104
Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date: 04/04/2011
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 336
Sales rank: 18,763
File size: 1 MB

About the Author

Mary Roach is the author of Grunt: The Curious Science of Humans at War, Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void, Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex, Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife, and Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers. Her writing has appeared in Outside, Wired, National Geographic, and the New York Times Magazine, among others. She lives in Oakland, California.


San Francisco, California

Place of Birth:

New Hampshire


B.A., Wesleyan University, 1981

Table of Contents

Countdown 15

1 He's Smart But His Birds are Sloppy: Japan Picks an Astronaut 21

2 Life in a Box: The Perilous Psychology of Isolation and Confinement 41

3 Star Crazy: Can Space Blow Your Mind? 63

4 You Go First: The Alarming Prospect of Life Without Gravity 79

5 Unstowed: Escaping Gravity on Board NASA's C-9 95

6 Throwing Up and Down: The Astronaut's Secret Misery 107

7 The Cadaver in the Space Capsule: NASA Visits the Crash Test Lab 129

8 One Furry Step for Mankind: The Strange Careers of Ham and Enos 149

9 Next Gas: 200,000 Miles: Planning a Moon Expedition Is Tough, but Not as Tough as Planning a Simulated One 173

10 Houston, We Have a Fungus: Space Hygiene and the Men Who Stopped Bathing for Science 191

11 The Horizontal Stuff: What If You Never Got Out of Bed? 209

12 The Three-Dolphin Club: Mating Without Gravity 229

13 Withering Heights: Bailing Out from Space 247

14 Separation Anxiety: The Continuing Saga of Zero-Gravity Elimiantion 265

15 Discomfort Food: When Veterinarians Make Dinner, and Other Tales of Woe from Aerospace Test Kitchens 285

16 Eating Your Pants: Is Mars Worth It? 307

Acknowledgments 319

Time Line 323

Bibliography 325

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See All Customer Reviews

Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 317 reviews.
angeleyesAS More than 1 year ago
This delightful read will entertain you and keep you laughing out loud and maintain your sense of wonder about space. You don't have to be a space wizard to appreciate this gem of a book. Everything you wanted to know and a lot you didn't, about space programs and the details of space travel from a human perspective. While not just informative, it's a great story and it's so funny!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a fun read that will have you spouting obscure spaceflight anecdotes to friends and family for days. A good excuse for fun lowbrow topics, with scientific data for justification.
Amber__Rose More than 1 year ago
What a fun book to read! I'm usually not one to read a lot of non-fiction, but this one had me laughing out loud with every turn of the page. I love space and science but had no idea what actually went into planning a mission. The best laughs are in the footnotes so don't skip over them! 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Loved this book. Every odd question about space you'd love to ask an astronaut while sitting at a bar and drinking with them is revealed.....and things you'd never think to ask.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Filled with fascinating, hysterical and compelling stories about about the difficulties of space travel. Worth the buy just to find out how long your underwear can last! I tell everyone i can. If you are interested in science, or liked any of mary roachs previous books, buy immediately!
Padraic_Israel More than 1 year ago
Mary Roach's Packing for Mars is a must read if you've ever wondered what it takes to go into space. The book is very informative, taking readers through the development of manned spaceflight, answering all sorts of questions from "What is it like to be weightless?" to "How do you go to the bathroom in space?" Mary Roach's writing style is very approachable, and she does a wonderful job of explaining many, many complicated subjects, turning what could be boring technical writing into an exciting and entertaining look at spaceflight. If you're a fan of her other works, you'll enjoy this one too.
WritermomHB More than 1 year ago
What do you think about going to Mars? Mary Roach thinks about the little things as well as the big things. Her research goes all the way back to the beginning of the space program. She quotes astronauts as well as scientists. She talks about the requirements to get into the space program. She asks the everyday questions that "common" folks want to know, even if they don't admit it to others. What about going to the bathroom in space? What about sex in space? She did a lot of research for this book, and presents it in a humorous fashion, so that it can be enjoyed by almost anyone interested in this subject. Sometimes, one might get "bogged down" in reading, as so much information that one never thought would need to be researched is presented, but keep on reading. You will be surprised what you will learn. For instance, did you know that people are paid to lie on their backs for weeks at a time to learn the effects of that on the human body? I enjoyed this book very much and would highly recommend it to anyone who is interested in the space program and/or NASA at all.
JanetOH More than 1 year ago
I loved this book-it's chock-full of things I never knew, from excerpts from transcripts of early space flights, to physiological studies and what kind of food is eaten on space flights. Lots of humor too!
Anonymous 11 months ago
Niecierpek on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Even though entitled Packing for Mars, this book is more about the physiology of a human body in space and its reactions to the void and extreme G forces than about what to take when travelling to other planets. Roach spends countless pages describing what eating, digesting and food elimination in the void look like and some more speculating what sex might look like. She integrates there her own experiences she had gained when flying on the famous NASA¿s `Vomit Comet¿ in the simulated weightlessness. She also devotes quite a bit of space to psychology of the life in the cramped quarters of space stations and space capsules and describes what qualities in pilots make NASA and other space agencies pick them for space missions. Some of it, as in Japanese case folding a thousand cranes and winning a talent show, makes you wonder a bit. It was interesting, but there was a bit too much emphasis on the scatological. And to tell the truth, I am still not sure what I would pack for Mars if I were going.
abbylibrarian on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
More than you ever wanted to know about the science of space travel... and by that I mean that Mary Roach keeps all the unsavory bits in, from going to the bathroom in space to the effects of wearing the same space suit for weeks on a space mission. The narrator for the audiobook was a perfect match, reading with a frank, spritely tone that complimented Mary Roach's frank, humorous writing style nicely.
gonzobrarian on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The only thing uncertain in Mary Roach's Packing For Mars is the title. Aside from some passing references to the red planet, the majority of the Roach's book concentrates mainly on the granularity and the weirdness of preparing for life and travel in space. Her subtitle is spot on, however. From the very outset, Roach dispenses with the mystique of space in favor of the curious, no, rather the unsettling scientific and unacommodating realities of space travel, in every aspect imaginable for human beings. Roach illuminates for the reader all the behind-the-scenes, between-the-lines unpleasantries unaware to the typical science fiction or emerging space enthusiast such as myself. From the international space station cooperation that is lost in translation, to the unorthodox psychology and research upon and performed on behalf of astronauts chosen for selection, the fallacy of weightlessness (epsecially in parabolic testing), the secrets held by our sebum layers outside the atmosphere, and the ever continuing conundrum of preventing rogue escapees through creation of the ultimate space toilet, Roach provides damning evidence that not only will we always be out of our element in space, but that our greatest challenge in space originates completely from within ourselves rather than from our stars.Biologically and psychologically we are our own worst enemy, to be sure. Even more so in the heavens. But as our futile enmity rages on down here on earth, there is no reason, as Roach appeals to the reader, to not push on and continue our exploration of the outer spheres. Space has never seemed so unfathomable and yet so cheekily inviting.
ASBiskey on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is 60% information, 30% tabloid, and 10% the author trying to share how special she is. The informational part of this is fascinating, even the more taboo subjects. I appreciate that she covered even the most intimate aspects of space travel, and effectively exposed the challenges. Aside from the information, the author has a tendency to get sidetracked on trivial matters. There are stories that relate, but are irrelevant. There are pages on how one of the space chimps got his nickname, when a paragraph would have been more than sufficient. Finally, the author has injected far too much of herself into the book. I am glad that she did the legwork to talk to people and experience as much as she could. There is just to much "I did this" and "I talked too". While many of the topics in the book are of a personal nature and the viewpoint of an outsider such as the author is interesting and helps us relate, she makes a point of expressing that she was the one experiencing it, and not enough on the experience.The information was five-star, but it was only part of the book. Even with the rest of the unnecessary material, it was worth reading and I look forward to reading other works by the author.
cee2 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Packing for Mars is a funny (and ewww!-gross) account of sending humans (and animals) into space. It's filled with facts gleaned from interviews, personal experience with simulations and published studies. It's a great overview of how astronauts are chosen and trained and what they go through during an actual space flight. (Alas, not yet to Mars.) Not one page was boring to me and Mary Roach may now be my favorite popular science writer.
verbafacio on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Mary Roach is an amazing author. Irreverant and witty, she makes any topic a joy to read about. Packing for Mars is no exception. Roach makes quite clear just how perilous space travel can be, as well as why every tiny detail needs to be carefully considered. From swallowing in space to all the gruesome details of extraplanetary excretion, Packing for Mars brilliantly and engagingly makes the case for space research.
santhony on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is a relatively short, but highly educational and entertaining look at many of the aspects of space travel that you may have wondered about, but were never able to find the answer to.For example, does hygiene become an issue when two men are in a very tightly confined area for two weeks, wearing a space suit, without the ability to bathe? How are liquid and solid wastes captured and recycled or disposed of in a space flight? Sex in space? Motion sickness and the implications of regurgitating in a space helmet. The physics of a reentering space shuttle disintegrating at a speed of Mach 17. These questions and many others are covered in this whimsical little work. Good for about six hours of entertainment, this will not win any literary awards, but if you have a sense of humor and a morbid curiosity, you¿ll find this a worthwhile read.
railarson on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
It wasn¿t until nearing the end of Oakland journalist Mary Roach¿s latest fun fact-finding foray that the five-year-old boy deep inside of me finally shut the hell up about flying into outer space. Much to his chagrin, he had been dutifully keeping a litany of the astro-indignities Roach gleefully, yet respectfully, outlined with her usual irreverent wit.Worse than horrible food? Check. Little opportunity for humane sanitation? Check. A decent likelihood of having one¿s brain disengage from its stem in a g-force tilt-a-whirl clusterfuck? Ch-ch-check. And yet lil¿ Raymond held on to his Apollo-era dreams of the uncharted void until the horrible truth was finally revealed: there will be no beer in space.Apparently, without gravity, the bubbles that provide beer¿s carbonation don¿t rise to the top of your pint or to the top of your stomach. Retired NASA food scientist Charles Bourland calls the results, ¿a foamy froth ¿ often a burp is accompanied by a liquid spray.¿ The best the greatest minds in the country could offer as a substitute was to decant Paul Masson cream sherry into little plastic pouches. Pass. Of course, once the modern prohibitionists got wind of it, even that exiguous libation was permanently grounded.And so it went. It seems the excitement of space exploration had died down before the Apollo program had even run its course. Roach quotes Apollo 17 astronaut Gene Cernan as deadpanning, ¿Funny thing happened on the way to the moon: not much.¿ From this remove, it¿s hard to believe that even going to the moon could have ever seemed routine. Cernan summed up the feeling many Americans had toward the space race by 1972 with, ¿Should have brought some crossword puzzles.¿ Roach underlines the sea change by stating; ¿The close of the Apollo program marked a shift from exploration to experimentation.¿Even the luster associated with, in the words of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry, ¿boldly go[ing] where no man has gone before,¿ tarnishes when you hear Shoichi Tachibana, the Chief Medical Officer of Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), reveal, ¿To tell you the truth, astronaut is a kind of college student.¿ Roach embellishes, ¿He is given assignments. Decisions are made for him. Going into space is like attending a very small, very elite military boarding school.¿Indeed, many of the tests that astronauts have to endure seem more like ritual hazing than science, but lest one forgets, they are not being prepped to survive in the great big world, but beyond it, where the very nature of the void wants to kill you.Astronaut Chris Hadfield explains the necessity of what often seems like sadistic torture. ¿That¿s what we do for a living. We don¿t fly in space for a living. We have meetings, plan, prepare, train. I¿ve been an astronaut for six years, and I¿ve been in space for eight days.¿Roach ultimately considers whether all of the trouble is worth it. She quotes Benjamin Franklin who¿upon the occasion of the first manned hot-air balloon flight¿was asked what use he saw in it. ¿What use,¿ Franklin replied, ¿is a newborn baby?¿ She dismisses the argument that the substantial amount of treasure spent on such an unlikely venture as traveling to Mars could better spent here on Earth by pointing out the truth that it probably wouldn¿t.¿I see a backhanded nobility,¿ she writes, ¿in excessive, impractical outlays of cash prompted by nothing loftier than a species joining hands and saying, `I bet we can do this.¿¿
Storeetllr on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This woman could make death seem hysterically funny. Oh, wait. She has already done that in "Stiff", not to mention "Spook," which is about the afterlife, sort of. For a subject usually taboo, "Stiff" was one of my all-time favorite nonfiction reads, and I was afraid "Packing for Mars" could never reach the same heights (or depths) of humor and intellect that I found so amazing in "Stiff" (and which, sadly, I found lacking in "Spook"), but it did. And I love the way she goes off on tangents ~ starting with one subject and expanding it in all directions before she's finished with it. Like another reviewer said, I kept telling myself not to be so juvenile when reading the bits about excretion in space, but I found myself laughing out loud when listening to those parts. (Note: This was an audiobook version.)
Mathenam on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this book, and the author's dry, witty sense of humor. At first, I didn't "get it", until I realized she was being funny. It was really interesting to find out what it's really like to be an astronaut. It is not glamorous, at ALL! Some of the parts about bodily waste, and how that happens in space, and how they train for it on Earth, were a little nauseating for me. But, overall, I'm glad I read it. I'm sure that I now have random facts about NASA in my brain that I can use someday to ace trivia games.
GlennBell on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I did not like the book very well. If you are amused by discussions of urine, feces, sex in zero gravity, and farts then this is your book. It seems odd that the book is focused on some practical but not more technical problems of space travel. She did her research by visiting the right places and interviewing the right people. I suppose she felt that this would appeal to the reader (i.e., discussing what is usually not discussed - at least in the detail that she goes into).
mullinator52 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A very readable discussion of the the minute things space agencies have to prepare themselves and their astronauts or cosmonauts for space travel There is chapters on cleanliness, space toilets (and other waste disposal), food, sex and many other things. It is an interesting read if you are at all interested in the subject of space travel... all the way from the Gemini program up through the Shuttle and a future flight to Mars.
revslick on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Everything you wanted to know about the space program with a whole lot that you didn't. Roach definitely knows how to pack in my trivia of useless knowledge all the while make it entertaining as well.
dk_phoenix on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
What fun! Not to mention highly readable, and educational. Also, I'm now fairly certain that astronauts are slightly loopy, to be willing to endure all that they do, for years on end, just for the potential experience of going into space for a matter of days. With all the risks involved, not to mention training, uncertainty, and discomfort... it's a wonder that anyone is willing to go! Ah, but humans are endlessly curious, and it's a shame that there have been so many cuts to the space program recently.But back to the book... if you're interested in space, NASA, or curious about astronauts and what they go through on the road to the stars, this is definitely a worthwhile read.
ladycato on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I read Roach's book STIFF a few months ago, and loved it more than I ever thought possible considering the subject matter (i.e. the things you do with dead people). She applies that same humor in PACKING FOR MARS. Though the subject matter isn't as morbid, it's still not your normal dinner-with-the-parents conversation material. But that's all part of the perverse joy. There are full chapters devoted to motion sickness and why it happens, the possibilities of sex in space (wherein I learned about dolphins and their prehensile anatomy), and the enormous problems caused by space food and toilet issues. It's fascinating, it's informative, it made me giggle like a 3rd grader hearing a naughty joke.Really, if you love space and obscure trivia and always wanted to know how toilets work (and don't work) in space, get this book. I can already say that this will be one of my favorite reads of the year.
Whisper1 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Roach has done it again! She has a unique and fascinating writing style of combining science with humor. A few years ago I read and enjoyed Stiff and this latest book had me laughing right out loud while learning interesting tidbits about the history of our quest to travel to outer space.Highly recommended! Thanks to Faith for directing me toward this one!