Saturday, February 26, 2011

Book Review: Packing For Mars

PACKING FOR MARS: The Curious Science of Life in the Void
By: Mary Roach
Published By: W.W. Norton & Co in August 2010
Format: Hardcover (318 pages, excluding Acknowledgements & Bibliography)

How I heard about this book: On twitter (I think)
How I got a copy: From the library
Why I wanted to read it: I love science, especially space

Intended Audience: Adults, Science Geeks
Genre: Non-fiction, Science
Rating: 3.75 stars (out of 5)

Summary: Descriptions of how astronauts prepare for outer space and what it would be like to live there. 

First Impressions: I was confused when I first started reading for two reasons. First, there wasn't a real introduction to what the book was really about. Yes, it's inside the front sleeve of the book jacket, but I consider that a summary, not an introduction, which I felt this book needed. Why? Because of the second reason: it wasn't what was expecting. What was I expecting? Based on the title, information on what it would be like travel in outerspace (which the author covers fantastically and with much detail), the dangers and obstacles of travelling to Mars (it's a long way away and takes a long time to get there and come back), and the preparations needed to make such a voyage safe and successful (both of which were only touched on very briefly).

Final Impressions: Once I stopped tripping over my expectations, I really enjoyed the book for what it is. I'm a science nerd (especially when it comes to space and astronomy), and I appreciate all of the research that went into writing such a detailed book. It covers how NASA prepares it's astronauts for space, including a lot of testing and studies to understand the impact space will have on the human body and how to cope and survive. It discusses hygiene, weightlessness, motion sickness, eating, bone loss, and more. It has first hand accounts from astronauts about some of the pleasures and difficulties. It definitely strips away the glamor of being an astronaut, but it still left me in awe.

This past Thursday (2/24), the space shuttle Discovery was launched on her final mission. She docks with the ISS today and will be there for a week. There are two other flights planned (Atlantis & Endeavor) and then NASA's shuttle fleet will be retired. The focus will then shift to building a craft that can fly beyond the moon, possibly to Mars.

A favorite quote from the book: "According to more than one astronaut memoir, one of the most beautiful sights in space is that of a sun-illuminated flurry of flash-frozen waste-water droplets. Space doesn't just encompass the sublime and the ridiculous. It erases the line between. (pg. 19)"

Do I recommend this book? Yes, especially to people who enjoy science and space.
Would I read another book by this author? Yes.

Do you want another point of view? This review and others can be found at

2011 Non-Fiction Challenge by The Broke and The Bookish (Category: Science/Nature)

1 comment:

  1. This author also wrote two other books I really liked. Stiff and Spook. I know you have a book "to read" list a mile long (like I do) but you should add these to it :)