A review of Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void, by Mary Roach
@@@@@ (5 out of 5)
Let’s, just assume, for the sake of argument, that you’re passionately interested in space travel and desperate to know “what it’s really like out there.” Mary Roach’s Packing for Mars will tell you more than you ever dreamed of knowing about the experience. It may also make you think twice about daydreaming of a trip to the stars.
Roach will make you laugh about it, though. Her wicked sense of humor pervades almost every page. In fact, it’s hard to imagine that anyone could have set out to write this book as straight, narrative nonfiction. It might have been published — like some of the deadly scientific studies with jaw-breaking titles that Roach consulted — but nobody would read it.
Humor aside, this remarkably unblushing account of life in space is a serious work of science reporting. In exploring the day-by-day and hour-by-hour challenges of preparing for spaceflight and then surviving it, Mary Roach touches on all those topics that (apparently) preoccupy astronauts but that are generally thought unmentionable in polite society — what we might refer to as “waste elimination” and other bodily functions that involve the discharge of other substances.
Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void is Roach’s fourth book. Her previous efforts, all successful, were Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers (2003); Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife (2005); and Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex (2008). Is there perhaps a pattern here somewhere?