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Editorial Reviews

Anyone searching for a laugh-out-loud selection should look no farther than Sandra Burr’s performance of Mary Roach’s Packing for Mars. Those who have enjoyed Roach’s previous books (Stiff, Spook, and Bonk) will not be disappointed by this latest offering. Packing for Mars presents listeners with the quirky realities of space travel usually left out of NASA press releases or articles celebrating the latest accomplishments of space missions.
Sandra Burr captures the humorous, sometimes snarky, but always fascinating bits of information that up to now most of us have managed to live without. For example, while we all know that Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin planted an American flag on the moon, Packing for Mars tells us how folks at NASA figured out how to pack the darn thing. We also know that astronauts have ways to answer nature’s call while in space, but from Roach’s book we learn of the experiments that went into perfecting the winning contraption to allow such activity.
Burr’s recitation of Roach’s footnotes is especially entertaining. In these asides are gems of arcane knowledge, including talking toilet paper dispensers at NASA, why there were no “chimp-o-nauts”, and the cocktail party conversation-starter that rabbits and guinea pigs are the only mammals not to suffer from motion sickness.
Throughout Packing for Mars Sandra Burr give lively readings of conversations between astronauts, either from their interviews with the author or read as bits of dialogue from space mission transcripts. Burr’s tone when expressing astronaut Jim Lovell’s irritation at the mission nutritionist’s poor packaging of messy space food should amuse listeners. Equally fun is the depiction of the back-and-forth between Command Pilot James McDivitt and Astronaut Ed White as McDivitt tries to coax an unwilling White, outside of the space module for the first US “space walk”, to come back inside before his oxygen runs out.
Burr’s talent is in full force when she is interpreting the author’s descriptions of pre-spaceflight training. “Weightless Flight Regurgitation Phenomenon” is discussed in detail as is the too-much-information quality of the Soviet’s “Restricted Hygiene Experiments”. From “space euphoria” to “the space stupids”, Burr’s presentation of Mary Roach’s Packing for Mars will cause chuckles that will necessitate explaining to those in close proximity that you are listening to a really funny book. —Carole Chouinard
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Publisher's Summary

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.
©2010 Mary Roach (P)2010 Brilliance Audio, Inc.
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

By Roy on 09-22-10

Everything You Always Wanted to Know - and More

Mary Roach has applied her keen research skill and packaged her keen insights, once again, for us in "Packing for Mars." The result is one wild ride through space programs in the US and abroad. Crew compatability, the vagaries of bowel elimination, sex in space, food preparation, and taking (or not taking) a shower is all here. The result is a delightful, informative, thought provokiing insight into space travel, engineering, and human behavior.

This is a great listen to have on the MP3 on a long drive. It keeps your attention, informs, and makes the time fly by. The writing is good and topically organized. The reading of Sandra Burr is excellent.
NOTE: There is a section dealing with sexual matters which you may or may not want to play when younger companions are about. If you car pool with sensitive people, perhaps you should listen to that section in a different locaion.

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24 of 24 people found this review helpful


By Amazon Customer on 08-20-10

What You Probably Don't Realize About NASA & Space

I wasn't sure to expect when I started reading this book, so I left my expectations at the cover. Just let Mary and Sandra lead the way. Having finished the book, I can say that had anyone else read it or if I had tried to read it myself, I might have not gotten as much out of it as I did. Sandra does a good job putting emphasis where I think Mary wanted it.

Prepare to embark on a journey of nausea, potty training, a bit of history, aero- and astrodynamics, and other stuff NASA doesn't like to talk about on a day-to-day basis. Expect to learn more about these things than you ever thought you could or would, and laugh while you do.

I'd recommend this book to anyone with an interest in space or aviation. Everyone else would enjoy the book as well, but not as much as someone who has in interest in the subjects discussed. Whether you are drawn to aviation and space, or have a fear of heights, you will still enjoy this book and probably come away with a better appreciation for everyone involved in any space agency.

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16 of 16 people found this review helpful

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

By Pete on 09-18-10

Unexpected Gem

I bought this book on a whim but what a interesting book it goes right into the detail of man space flight and explains a lot of thing the TV never told us, I listen to my books while walking to work but with this one I made up walks just to listen to it!

I fully recommend it if you have half a interest in space flight

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9 of 9 people found this review helpful


By Nicola Fern on 02-01-11

Great book, horrible narration

Pushes all my favourite buttons...geeky, funny and thoroughly entertaining.

I got the audiobook from Audible before I bought the hardback, and hated it - the reader they used has such a mechanical, robotic sounding voice and flat delivery that not an iota of humour survived, and it was so monotonous that I couldn't concentrate on it. However, I could tell there was a great book struggling to make itself heard so I bought the hard copy and I'm very glad I did.

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6 of 7 people found this review helpful

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Customer Reviews

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By DoctorFirefly89 on 07-31-15

Utterly delightful

I bought this on a whim and I'm very grateful I did. Mary Roach is everything you want from a science writer: knowledgeable, eloquent, well-researched and absolutely hilarious. Roach clearly has a wonder for space and space travel and it shows in her words, but she also has a fascination for the whole story and that's what elevates this above the regular story of the Space Age. She has done a great deal of research, combing through archives, interviewing not only American astronauts, but Russian cosmonauts. She speaks to programmers, engineers, analysts and importantly: researchers. She talks to the people that make space travel possible. Two of the most entertaining sections of this book demonstrate all this. The first is her discussion of how to go to the toilet in space. I had heard about the high-tech space toilet but I never thought about it much. This is only a research invention for the Space Station. Apollo astronauts went number 2 in a bag over their hands that then had to be treated with chemicals so the gases produced by the accompanying microbes didn't make it explode. The second is sex in space. The highlight is when Mary hears about a Czech (I think, it was definitely European) porno that was set in space and supposedly shot in a plane during parabolic flight. She actually tracks down someone to worked on the film and even a copy of the 70s film to see if it's true (I wont spoil it for you).

This book was highly entertaining and informative and gives you many great stories to tell.

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1 of 1 people found this review helpful


By The Talent on 08-31-16

Very thorough, and a good read.


Mary roach has seriously done her homework on this one. Boy there is so much that goes into sending man to space. The depth of Roach's explanations is wonderful. You don't often get to read about many of these things.

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