Packing for Mars by Mary Roach

I won an advance reading copy of Packing for Mars in a giveaway the lovely Emily of Books, the Universe and Everything held a while back. I’ve been meaning to read it for ages and when I wanted something light and fun after The Crimson Petal and the White this was my first choice.

The author did extensive research into everything concerning space travel, from space hygiene and food suitable to be consumed where there is no gravity, to the loss of muscle mass and crash landing scenarios. I have to admit that even though I have a scientific background and feel comfortable calculating escape velocities and trajectories I hadn’t considered many of the issues that we have to deal with in long space journeys like a mission to Mars for example. Sending robots and expensive hardware up there requires a lot of physics and engineering but it is very simple compared to the complexities of a manned mission.

From flying in parabolic ‘no-gravity’ flights and testing the space shuttle training toilet to drinking urine, Mrs Roach definitely immersed herself in her research. She has a keen sense of humour and filled her book with lots of amusing or absurd anecdotes from the decades of bizarre space simulations in space agencies all over the word as well as from some of the most famous manned missions to space. This book made me laugh out loud but also appreciate astronauts even more. Highly recommend it.

A quote I liked:

“Here are men contemplating sending a human being into space atop a tank carload of explosive chemicals, and they are worried he might be harmed by gravity?”

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