Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in Space by Mary Roach

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Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in Space by Mary Roach

Category: Popular Science
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Zoe Morris
Reviewed by Zoe Morris
Summary: In space, no one can hear you fart, but they can see your urine as it streams past the window...
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 312 Date: September 2010
Publisher: Oneworld Publications
ISBN: 978-1851687800

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Space is big. Really big. And it's a long way away, too. I mean, I'm having enough trouble deciding what to pack for a year in Africa. I'd be hopeless if I were off to Mars. But then, no-one's written a book on what to stick in your suitcase for Sierra Leone. And Mary Roach has written a book on what to take to the red planet...

Except, this is so much more than a shopping list. This is the definitive inside scoop for anyone who has ever wondered what goes on behind the scenes in a world that is, well, out of this world.

This is the book that asks the really important questions about spaceflight. Like how do you go to the loo in space (if Star Trek's anything to go by, you don't, of course), and out of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, who had the bigger man parts...

But it also tackles some weightier stuff, like the psychological effects of leaving the world behind, literally, combined with some hideous yet compulsive paragraphs on animal experiments that send internal organs squishing up or squashing down, or generally just herniating, and the much more fun sounding human ones where you lie in bed all day, for months on end, all in the name of science.

The focus of this book is the human aspect of space travel, what it feels like to live your normal(ish) day to day routine in zero gravity, with a view of the Earth out of your window. It's less about the boring mechanics, and more about how in-flight meals NASA style compare to in-flight meals of the British Airways variety, or why the ability to fold origami cranes is of vital importance to any potential recruits. Throw in a look at the distinct allowances needed for Muslim astronauts (how to pray 5 times a day when your 'day' is only 90 minutes long), and a dissection of a certain porn film purported to be filmed in space, and you have a really varied, mixed bag of ideas and problems.

The author herself is no rocket scientist. Her previous books have covered a muddling array of topics including the afterlife, sex and human cadavers (all with her favourite word – curious – in the subtitle, but thankfully not all in the same volume). I think her lack of expert knowledge (combined with her status as an experienced and established writer) helps. I may not be the astrophysicist in this house (though we have one, of course – doesn't every family?) but I found it an intriguing and accessible read. It's not too heavy on the scientific jargon, and the journalistic style lends itself well to this book. For me it was mostly brand new material, though I accept that some of the facts might be more well known in the space community. It's Joe Bloggs who I think this book is aimed at though, and with that in mind it's written perfectly, pitched at a level that requires real world knowledge and a bit of education, without the need for a PhD.

This book isn't really about the suitcase requirements of those lucky enough to be in line for a manned trip to Mars, but it covers just about everything else. It achieves the double whammy of being both entertaining and educational, and though it starts off good, it gets even better as it goes along. Recommended.

Thanks go to the publishers for sending us this book.

It may be aimed at kids, but we also reckon some adults might find themselves sneaking a peak at The Comic Strip History of Space by Sally Kindberg and Tracey Turner.

Buy Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in Space by Mary Roach at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in Space by Mary Roach at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in Space by Mary Roach at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in Space by Mary Roach at Amazon.com.


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