Packing For Mars: The Curious Science of the Void
By Mary Roach
W.W. Norton, 2010. 333 pages. Nonfiction
Mary Roach, a journalist, explores the great lengths that NASA and other space agencies go to in order to test astronauts to see if they are ready for an extended time in space. From training them how to go to the bathroom in zero gravity to dealing with the psychological issues caused by cramped quarters, delays in communication, and potential disasters around every corner, Roach reveals the rigorous tests that potential candidates are trained for on Earth to handle the living in space. For example, how do eleven astronauts respond to being hangry in space? To find out, they tested how long it took potential astronauts to lose their temper after their lunch was delayed for several hours. Most people broke after four hours of waiting for lunch. Those that didn't break, moved on to the next test.
Roach’s writing is humorous and conversational while being informative. She makes the science of human physiology in space understandable for ordinary people. The reading is fast paced and each chapter focuses on a different aspect of training. It’s an easy book to pick up and put down without losing the point. A great read.