I've been a big fan of NASA for longer than I can remember. As a child, I was fascinated with space, and the U.S. Space Program. Kennedy Space Center was always a favorite vacation spot for me, and I can even remember where I was when the space shuttle Challenger exploded. The print shop of my high school, in case you were wondering. So, it is no wonder that I was drawn to Mary Roach's book, Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void.
Space is devoid of things like: air, gravity, hot showers, beer, and privacy. Mary Roach dips into the world of space exploration to discover just how much a human can give up in order to explore the "final frontier". What happens when you: can't walk for a year? have sex? smell flowers? vomit in your helmet during a space walk? To answer these, and other questions, space agencies have set up quizzical and, sometimes, bizarre space simulations. All with the ultimate goal of sending humans to Mars. In Packing for Mars, Mary Roach, with her unfailing inquisitiveness, travels the globe to tackle the strange science of space travel, uncovering some of the stories that would never make it on NASA's website.
If you are like me, you've wondered why humans have gone no further than the moon. Roach points out that human biology, sociology, and psychology are what holds us back from reaching that small red planet. The technology and engineering is ready. People are the problem. These are the problems that no one likes to talk about in public. What do you do with all the urine? How do you keep from hating the astronauts next to you when they get on your nerves? How do you remain sane in a cramped capsule on a multi-year voyage?
I've read several books from Roach, and every one of them has been a treat. This one is no different. With her usual audacity, the author weaves an entertaining book filled with stories from the past and the present. Have you ever heard the one about the astronaut chimp that liked to rip out his catheter and masturbate in front of the press? Or, did you ever wonder why the Japanese space agency uses Origami to select their astronauts? These are the kind of stories that I've come to expect from a Mary Roach book. The obscure and the bizarre. It makes for a very amusing read.
Mary Roach doesn't disappoint with Packing for Mars. With her usual twisted sense of humor, she is informative as well as entertaining. Packing for Mars is another fantastic read well worth the time.