I love Mary Roach and I LOVED this book. I’ve read Stiff and Spook before, and Packing for Mars was better even than those two. This woman does it all, and I would love to just take her out for a beer sometime.
Packing for Mars delves into the space industry in every way imaginable: from the first tests to see what would happen to people in zero gravity to how they eat, sleep and poop in space. Roach investigates it all, and asks the greatest questions. The writing is fast, interesting and funny. Her little observations (“The suffix ‘naut’ comes from the Greek and Latin words for ships and sailing.Astronaut suggests ‘a sailor in space.’ Chimponaut suggests ‘a chimpanzee in sailor pants’.”) had me cracking up. I learned quite a bit, too. I was constantly stopping to read trivia out to my husband (“As brain cells die from oxygen starvation, euphoria sets in, and one last, grand erection.”).
In addition to the superb writing, I love how Roach just dives into every experience. She tries out zero gravity (“Gravity disappears again, and we rise up off the floor like spooks from a grave. It’s like the Rapture in here every thirty seconds.”). She interviews crazy old Russian cosmonauts. She goes to Japan to discuss their space program. She is hardly collecting information by researching online or in books — she goes out there and finds it.
If you haven’t read anything by Mary Roach, this is a great start. It was a wonderful read.
Edit: I forgot to mention that she investigates sex in space by renting porn shot in zero gravity, and even makes an effort to find the actors/actresses from the film. You should seriously read this book.