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Thursday, October 21, 2010

Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void (audiobook) by Mary Roach



Enjoyable - offbeat, funny, informative, thought-provoking

9 CDs
approximately 11 hours
Read by Sandra Burr


NASA Artist's conception of a Mars rover

The point of Mary Roach's Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void is not the technical challenges of sending an object to Mars. We have demonstrated that we can send a probe to Mars, operate it and do a bit of exploring.

No, this is about sending a human to Mars, a much more difficult proposition. Mary Roach deals with the following (and more) in her Packing for Mars:

-We eat, drink, and create bodily waste. How do we store enough food to make the trip to Mars?

-How do we deal with expelling bodily waste in a zero gravity environment (no toilets - everything would just float out!)

-What do we do with the waste? Can you recycle it back into food? Who would want to eat that?

-Can people actually live together in cramped quarters for months at a time with no break and not kill one another?

-What will zero gravity do to the human body during this trip?

-Can people actually have sex in a zero gravity environment? What if a pregnancy results - what will the fetus be like if it is developed in zero gravity?

-Zero gravity tends to create lots of nausea. How do we deal with it?


Mars, the red planet
-Can you propel yourself in space with flatulation? (sure, not a serious question, but now you want to know, don't you?)

-Personal hygiene in space. How stinky will that capsule be?

-What about dust that comes from sloughed off skin and hair? It is just going to accumulate all over the capsule.

-Can you bail out of a space capsule or shuttle if it has a bad take off or landing?


In this book you learn that the biggest challenge is, in Roach's words, "gravity and life without it." The 2nd issue, and it is a big one too, is size. The vehicle to Mars will be, by necessity, small. This means little storage, little elbow room and no place to go if nausea or escaping bodily waste become issues (her inclusion of the transcript of a space capsule conversation about free-floating "turds" is hilarious and serves to highlight that this has already been an issue that NASA has dealt with in the past).

I rate this audiobook 5 stars out of 5.

This audiobook can be found on Amazon.com here: Packing for Mars.

Reviewed on October 21, 2010.

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