I am a huge fan of creative non-fiction and finding humor in the strangest places. Mary Roach is a great example of this kind of writing. I finally got around to picking up Packing for Mars. It was worth the wait because it is packed full of gems!
This is a well-written and funny look at our experiences in space. During the writing of this book Mary Roach traveled all over the world interviewing astronauts and visiting space programs. By the end I found myself a little jealous of all the traveling and fun things that she was able to do.
Growing up, I never had any desire to be an astronaut. The thought of leaving the Earth holds zero appeal to me. I do have a touch of claustrophobia and that is probably why. The thought of being cramped into some shuttle floating around while you tumble through a huge void is pretty terrifying to me. I am an armchair space explorer and that is about the extent of it.
I just want to report that this book has not changed my mind. I still do NOT want to be an astronaut. The discussions of cramped quarters, motion sickness, tedious schedules in space, and bodily functions have reinforced that it is not for me. I will have to find a way to let NASA down gently.
This is still a fascinating read and I highly recommend it. Mary Roach has a gift for taking a lot of scientific information and translating it in a way that makes it very readable to the average reader. She asks the questions that I want to know about. Have astronauts had sex in space? What would it be like to have sex with no gravity? How bad do astronauts smell when they are up there with no shower for weeks at a time? You want the answers to these questions? Then go get this book!
I think that it is important that other people read this, because the space program is always something that tends to be brought up in discussions of national budget. Why so much money is spent on it and what is the point. Roach does a really good job of showing what NASA has to go through to get things in to space and why it can cost so much.
I learned quite a bit of fun facts from this book:
-Otoliths. You have something called an otolith. I seriously have never heard of this. Have you? Well, we both need to be glad that we have it because it is something that helps us keep our balance and keep from getting motion sickness.
-In order to be considered an asteroid, the material needs to be the size of a boulder. For some reason I thought this was an astonishing fact because I always assumed that asteroids were big. (The smallest known one was about a meter in diameter). A boulder crashing down on the earth doesn’t seem like a very big deal. A little internet searching on asteroids has shown me how little I know about such things. This book was the inspiration of this post: Asteroids: A Three Minute Read
-Astronauts used to have to be between 5’5 and 5’10. These days they have to make seats to accommodate the 1 percentile of female to the 99th percentile of males. Which is part of what makes seats and suits so expensive!
-They use jets to fly and simulate zero gravity. The experience that Mary Roach describes of this gave me motion sickness.
-Space can make you taller! It has to do with gravity and your weight not compressing your spine. It can make you 3 percent taller. Still has not changed my mind about being an astronaut. Though it does make sense that they have to have suits and seats that will allow adjustments.
-The most interesting fact to me is the subject of my most recent three minute read. How Bad Do You Smell? [Three Minute Read]
Enjoy my book review? Check out this post: The Children’s Blizzard [Book Review]