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

Book cover for "Packing for Mars" by Mary Roach.Title: Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void

Author: Mary Roach

Narrator: Sandra Burr

Publication Year: 2010

Pages: 334 (audio length: 20 hours 28 minutes)

Genre: Non-Fiction

Source: Audiobook version purchased from

From the cover:

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.

I don’t have any particular interest in space exploration, but I love myself a little Mary Roach. In her previous books (Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers, Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex, and Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal), she always managed to make me laugh, no matter the subject matter. So I figured that I’d give this a try.

Packing for Mars covers a variety of topics, from eating in space, animals in space, walking in space, pooping in space, and even having sex in space. Roach somehow managed to find a balance between avoiding too much graphic detail and giving enough information to keep the reader informed. As usual, she did a great job of attacking her subject matter with humour, while still coming across as quite informative.

Even if you, like me, have very little interest in space exploration, I highly recommend Packing for Mars. Roach is an ace at science writing, and will keep you amused even as you manage to learn things you never expected to know.


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