Monday, January 24, 2011

Packing for Mars

As a seven year old, I wanted to be astronaut when I grew up; (I also wanted to be a firefighter, detective, actress, teacher, and librarian—the career I eventually settled on). Though I’ve now chosen a different career path, had I still been hankering for a life riding rocketships, Mary Roach’s book Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void, would have changed my mind. Turns out that astronauts have to deal with more challenges than just years and years of math and science: like how do you poop in zero-gravity?

Packing for Mars is a hilarious (and informative) look at space travel. Roach focuses each chapter on a particular space curiosity; in addition to the previously mentioned bathroom-problem, Roach tackles the issues of motion sickness (specifically how NASA deals with vomit in space suits), the possibility of zero-gravity sex, coexisting with others in tight spaces, lack of personal hygiene, and the difficulty of creating non-disgusting space food (dehydrated astronaut ice cream is delicious, but what about a dehydrated beef sandwich?), among others.

Roach asks NASA for all the answers we (and our inner fifth-grader) want to know and presents the facts in an entertaining, funny, easy to read, and educational book. Though the book reveals that astronaut-life is full of struggles and discomforts, it doesn’t make the subject any less interesting (it fact, I'd say it makes reading about space that much more exciting).

I am giving Packing for Mars a 5/5, and I definitely recommend it to everyone. And you know who else recommends it? A.J. Jacobs, the guy who unintentionally got me started on this whole Daily Shill mission. Here’s his blurb from the back of the book: “Mary Roach is the most entertaining science writer in America. She has given us far more than the Right Stuff. She’s given us the funny stuff, the weird stuff, and the human stuff. In space, no one can hear you cackle like an insane person, which is what I did while reading this book.” So, read it!

Watch Jon Stewart’s interview with Mary Roach

Buy the Book

Just FYI, there will probably not be a new review next week. I’ve been inundated with homework and employment-work and will probably not have time to finish the Daily Shill book I’m currently working on. I will still try to post something, though, so check back!

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