MarsI can tell by the look that’s in your eyes
And I’m not surprised
You got to move on like the sun got to rise
I’m just holdin’ you down

But the universe is calling you
You are one of chosen fews
You got to pay your dues

Hey, pack’d my bags, put ’em at the door
Hey, pack’d my bags, put ’em at the door
Hey, pack’d my bags, put ’em at the door

Those are lyrics by Chaka Khan and Tony Maiden.  [Yes, the official lyrics really DO say chosen fewS. Sorry, folks, I don’t write ’em, I just copy and paste ’em.]  I just wanted to show you how up to date I am, since we are going to be talking about space travel, life in zero gravity, and what happens when you attempt the horizontal hula where there ain’t really no horizontal, up could be down, and down could be sideways.

This truly fun and fascinating book was published in 2010, so maybe a few things have changed since then.  (Would that be a fews things have changed?)  No matter.   It is basically everything you have ever wanted to know about how the NASA and other scientists learned about how things are in space.  It’s not pretty.  You can just wipe your mind clear of all those terribly intelligent-looking people in pristine white lab coats,  because a lot of it has to do with vomiting, fungus, and disgusting food.   Here are the chapter titles, which will give you an idea of how much you will totally love this book:

  1. He’s Smart But His Birds Are Sloppy – Japan picks an astronaut
  2. Life In A Box – the perilous psychology of isolation and confinement
  3. Star Crazy – can space blow your mind?
  4. You Go First – the alarming prospect of life without gravity
  5. Unstowed – escaping gravity on board NASA’s C-9
  6. Throwing Up and Down – the astronaut’s secret misery
  7. The Cadaver in the Space Capsule – NASA visits the crash test lab
  8. One Furry Step for Mankind – the strange careers of Ham and Enos
  9. Next Gas: 200,000 Miles – planning a moon expedition is tough, but not as tough as planning a simulated one
  10. Houston, We have a Fungus – space hygiene and the men who stopped bathing for science
  11. The Horizontal Stuff – What if you never got out of bed?
  12. The Three-Dolphiin Club – Mating without gravity
  13. Withering Heights – Bailing out from space
  14. Separation Anxiety – the continuing sage of zero-gravity elimination
  15. Discomfort Food – When veterinarians make dinner and other tales of woe from aerospace test kitchens
  16. Eating Your Pants – is Mars worth it

Mary Roach specializes in popular science — or perhaps I should say popularizing science for the masses.  She has an easy and humorous writing style, and really makes this stuff which could be a bit grim and dreary come alive.   In this book, she reports  her interviews with scientists, astronauts from Russia and the USA, and NASA officials of all stripes, and let us know how it went when she attempted some of the experimental stuff.  She just had a good time all around, and makes us readers wish we had been along with her.

She has published five other books:    Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers, Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife  (published in some markets as Six Feet Over: Adventures in the Afterlife), Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and SexMy Planet: Finding Humor in the Oddest Places, and Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal .  I have Stiff, which I plan to read shortly because I had such a good time with Packing For Mars.




  1. […] I love Mary Roach.  I am totally a Mary Roach fan.  I have already read three other books by her,  Six Feet Over  – Adventures in the Afterlife,  Stiff, about bodies and dead people, and Packing for Mars – The Curious Science of Life in the Void. […]

  2. […] Roach writes non-fiction about some fun topics.  You can read about Packing for Mars here.   And Stiff here,  Six Feet Over-Adventures in the Afterlife here,  and My Planet […]

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