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Packing for Mars : the curious science of life in the void
2010
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Summary
Space is a world devoid of the things we need to live and thrive: air, gravity, hot showers, fresh produce, privacy, beer. Space exploration is in some ways an exploration of what it means to be human. How much can a person give up? How much weirdness can they take? What happens to you when you can't walk for a year? have sex? smell flowers? What happens if you vomit in your helmet during a space walk? Is it possible for the human body to survive a bailout at 17,000 miles per hour? To answer these questions, space agencies set up all manner of quizzical and startlingly bizarre space simulations. As Mary Roach discovers, it's possible to preview space without ever leaving Earth. From the space shuttle training toilet to a crash test of NASA's new space capsule (cadaver filling in for astronaut), Roach takes us on a surreally entertaining trip into the science of life in space and space on Earth.
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Roach brings intrepid curiosity, sauciness, and chutzpah to the often staid practice of popular science writing. With the human body as her endlessly intriguing subject, she not only investigates but also participates in strange goings-on behind laboratory doors. Following her wildly popular Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex (2008), Roach explores the organic aspects of the space program, such as the dangerous bane of space motion sickness and the challenges of space hygiene (the early capsules stunk to high heaven). Roach happily goes weightless on a parabolic flight on a McDonnell Douglas C-9 in a NASA zero-gravity research project, and test-drives a pressurized rover on a lunar landscape in the High Arctic. She devotes one chapter to space food and another to zero-gravity elimination, which is a serious matter, even with a term like fecal popcorning. An impish and adventurous writer with a gleefully inquisitive mind and a stand-up comic's timing, Roach celebrates human ingenuity (the odder the better), and calls for us to marshal our resources, unchain our imaginations, and start packing for Mars.--Seaman, Donna Copyright 2010 Booklist
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