The Skimmer

Book Review: Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void by Mary Roach

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Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void

By Mary Roach

W.W. Norton; 334 pages

Mary Roach sure is a curious person. The author of Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers and Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex has once again discovered a winner of a subject with her latest effort, which delves into the ins and outs of zero-gravity living. "Everything one takes for granted on Earth must be rethought, relearned, rehearsed," writes Roach of those who are lucky (or are they?) enough to go into space. While she touches on topics from simian astronauts to the ideal shape and configuration of space food, Roach saves the bulk of her exploration for questions that often remain undiscussed outside schoolyards and NASA experiment rooms. What happens if you vomit in your helmet during a space walk? Is it possible to have sex in space? How exactly does one defecate in a zero-gravity toilet? Roach's strange enthusiasm for all things oddball (combined with her sometimes annoying, though mostly amusing, tic of ending paragraphs with rim-shot-worthy punch lines) makes Mars a more than worthy destination.