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

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“The best-selling author of Stiff and Bonk explores the irresistibly strange universe of space travel and life without gravity. From the Space Shuttle training toilet to a crash test of NASA’s new space capsule, Mary Roach takes us on the surreally entertaining trip into the science of life in space and space on Earth.”

-Synopsis from Goodreads


This was such an unexpectedly enjoyable read! The reason I say unexpected is because I am not one to really seek out non-fiction about anything science related. I definitely went out of my comfort zone on this one (thanks, Summer Reading Program!)

In Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void, Mary Roach reveals everything you didn’t know you needed or wanted to know about space exploration and preparation. I had no idea how fascinating I would find this until I started reading the book.

Some of the topics she explores are…

  • the extensive psychological testing you must undergo before even being considered to be an astronaut
  • the detached feeling astronauts (and even some pilots) feel when they reach a certain distance away from earth, which leaves them somewhat loopy
  • the effects of zero gravity on normal everyday activities astronauts will have to engage in (such as using the bathroom, bathing, eating, etc.)

I especially loved this quote from the beginning of the book:

“To the rocket scientist, you are a problem. You are the most irritating piece of machinery he or she will ever have to deal with. You and your fluctuating metabolism, your puny memory, your frame that comes in a million different configurations. you are unpredictable. You’re inconstant…

To me, you are the best thing to happen to rocket science. The human being is the machine that makes the whole endeavor so endlessly intriguing. To take an organism whose every feature has evolved to keep it alive and thriving in a world with oxygen, gravity, and water, to suspend that organism in the wasteland of space for a month or a year, is preposterous but captivating…”

How inspiring is that?

What I liked the most about the book is the wry humor sprinkled throughout the narration. Anything that makes me laugh out loud is getting a good review from me and this book certainly makes the grade in that respect. The overall tone of the book is one of fascination, excitement about learning new things, and hopefulness for the future.

This was such a great pick for Summer Reading and I hope others out there had the chance to enjoy the book as well!

Mary Roach has quite a few other books that I’m sure are great, but their topics aren’t ones I’m especially eager to read about (war, human cadavers)! So it would have to depend on the topic if I were to read another one of her books, but I would definitely say she’s worth reading.

7 thoughts on “Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void by Mary Roach

    1. Oh I’m right there with you! Being lost/stuck in outer space is one of my irrational fears, no idea why. But this book was less about actually being in space and more about the work engineers do to get astronauts into space and the mechanics of it all. Plus there’s enough humor to keep it light!


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