Saturday, April 9, 2011

Packing for Mars by Mary Roach

The library's Tuesday night book group will discuss science writer Mary Roach's Packing for Mars: the curious science of life in the void Tuesday night, April 12, at 7:30 pm. Obviously sending anything to Mars is an engineering challenge, but sending humans is especially challenging because the human body just does not take well to being cooped up in a small, gravity-free, crowded space for months on end. The lack of exercise, the problems of what to eat and drink and how to eliminate what has been consumed are just some of the issues NASA faces while planning to send a manned mission to Mars. Ms. Roach has previously written the non-fiction books Stiff which is all about dead bodies; Spook, about life after death; and Bonk, yup, all about sex. So clearly the author enjoys researching subjects others might avoid even thinking about, much less researching in great detail and she is willing to ask any question and submit herself to very odd experiments to get her story.
In Packing for Mars, the author takes flight in a C-9 aircraft that by flying parabola formations can simulate weightlessness. So to answer, what to pack for Mars, the answer would be barf bags. Ms. Roach explains why vomiting into one's space helmet is a life-threatening event. Who knew? But the book isn't all vomit and other bodily fluids, although those topics do figure prominently. The author explores every aspect of what kind of punishment the human body is in for in outer space by trying various NASA simulators. Even if you never thought you were interested in space flight, you might enjoy reading this book: it is escapist non-fiction, non-fiction for fiction readers, appropriate for older teens and up. I chose this title because it seemed like a nice break  from the psychological women's fiction which are so often chosen by book groups. I'll post on Wednesday about the book group's reaction to the book.

No comments: