Book review: Packing for Mars – Mary Roach

This is an ‘international bestseller’ and I bought it as part of a ‘buy two get one free’ offer, thinking it might provide some light, science relief.

Starting with the premise of a manned mission to Mars, Roach looks at the history of travel in space, from the first animals to be launched on V2 rocket heads, to the current occupants of the ISS, taking in a side glance at Felix on the way.

Covering everything from anti-gravity sickness, diet, toilet and washing requirements, the problems of living in close quarters with others and the possibly more important problem of a safe re-entry to the atmosphere, this book is full of scientific fact and anecdote. Roach has talked to just about everyone she can lay her hands on, through NASA and the astronauts themselves, the researchers of various parts of space travel and has clearly spent an extensive amount of time with the archive.

Her style is very much ‘look what I’ve been doing’ with an over use of footnotes, that in some cases are longer than the point she was expanding on. It’s been written very much for an American audience, with lots of cultural references that I did not understand. There were also, surprisingly, several typos going through the book.

Worth a read, and worth a copy for the school library, if only to give the answers to some of those tricky (personal) questions that the kids ask and to provide relevant anecdotes when teaching space topics.

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