book thoughts: Packing for Mars: the Curious Science of Life in the Void by Mary Roach (2010)

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When it comes to getting to the tough questions involving space science, Mary Roach will ask them!  I’m not talking about hard-hitting interviews or Barbara Walters-esque tear jerking…I’m talking about the stuff we REALLY want to know deep down…like…has anyone ever had sex in zero gravity?  How hard is it to eat a sandwich?  What about…you know…AFTER you’ve eaten the sandwich?

If you’ve ever wondered about any of the above, the more practical problems of trying to take a creature that evolved on Earth and send them elsewhere, then you will enjoy this book.  The main focus of the book is NASA’s next big goal: getting humans to Mars. Author Mary Roach takes us through a brief history of NASA and space travel – not just the big flights we all know about but the little side missions that did not have the rigth kind of stories to be made into movies (you know, where most of the tension comes from the fact that none of the astronauts has taken a shower in 5 days).  She walks us through some of the experiments being done today to plan the big trip to Mars.  She takes us to the testing centers, watches as the Japanese astronauts are picked from a test group and even takes part in the parabolic flights that grant her a few seconds of zero-gravity while still within Earth’s atmosphere.  She also touches upon some interesting issues of sex and ethnicity when it comes to space stations.  It’s the kind of book you want to read before you go to a cocktail party because you will have so many random tidbits floating around your brain that you’ll want to share the knowledge!  

I’m a big fan of Mary Roach’s writing style – a great mix of science and snark.  If this was how science was presented to students, I think we’d have a lot more people interested in learning more about the world and universe around them. 

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