This book wasn’t exactly what I thought it was when I decided to read it. I thought Mary Roach would be writing from the perspective of what needs to be done/brought/invented to get us to a place where we are sending humans to live on Mars. What Roach really does is explain how the same things which had to be accomplished for basic space flight and putting a man on the moon are the things that scientists of various stripes are working on right now to continue the forward momentum of space exploration, and the science of everyday modern life.
I also didn’t expect, and that’s probably because I just wasn’t paying close enough attention, that Mary Roach is hysterically funny. I’m used to reading monographs that are occasionally amusing, but it’s not often that you run across an author who takes the extra effort to make the narrative amusing, whether it be by using puns or footnotes to drop a joke or perhaps my favorite of all quoting the astronauts in question and filling in the blanks. It is obvious from the page that Roach enjoyed the researching of this book and I am looking forward to taking her advice and reading Mike Mullane’s book Riding Rockets, which she suggests as the funniest astronaut memoir. The only problem I ran into is that since my roommate read Packing for Mars first, I did miss out on the opportunity to read the funniest parts for myself without prior knowledge of their existence. Chapter 14, I’m looking at you.
But, if you have an interest in the science and history of space exploration and all the wacky questions that may not have occurred to you that would be a concern (for example, gravity aids in the sense of bladder fullness letting us know we need to go) then I would very much suggest this book to you. I think I’m going to look for Roach’s book Stiff later in the year for more fun science reading.