Space is devoid of the stuff humans need to live: air, gravity, hot showers, fresh veg, privacy, beer. How much can a person give up? What happens when you can't walk for a year? Is sex any fun in zero gravity? What's it like being cooped up in a metal box with a few people for months at a time? As Mary Roach discovers, it's possible to explore space without ever leaving Earth. From the space shuttle training toilet to a 17,000 mile-per-hour crash test of NASA's space capsule (cadaver stepping in), she takes us on a surreally entertaining trip into the science of living in space.
Amazon Best Books of the Month, August 2010: With her wry humor and inextinguishable curiosity, Mary Roach has crafted her own quirky niche in the somewhat staid world of science writing, showing no fear (or shame) in the face of cadavers, ectoplasm, or sex. In Packing for Mars, Roach tackles the strange science of space travel, and the psychology, technology, and politics that go into sending a crew into orbit. Roach is unfailingly inquisitive (Why is it impolite for astronauts to float upside down during conversations? Just how smelly does a spacecraft get after a two week mission?), and she eagerly seeks out the stories that don't make it onto NASA's website--from SPCA-certified space suits for chimps, to the trial-and-error approach to crafting menus during the space program's early years (when the chefs are former livestock veterinarians, taste isn't high on the priority list). Packing for Mars is a book for grownups who still secretly dream of being astronauts, and Roach lives it up on their behalf--weightless in a C-9 aircraft, she just can't resist the opportunity to go "Supermanning" around the cabin. Her zeal for discovery, combined with her love of the absurd, amazing, and stranger-than-fiction, make Packing for Mars an uproarious trip into the world of space travel. --Lynette Mong