06 September, 2011

6 Sept - Packing for Mars

I just finished Packing for Mars, by Mary Roach. Admittedly, this book does not discuss, tangentially or otherwise, anything related to art. But it is so entertaining, so fascinating, that I can't resist mentioning it in the blog. And I hear Bruce Nauman also loved it. So there you go.

In Packing for Mars, Roach explores and details the types of stories that NASA would most likely prefer to remain under wraps. This book is about the embarrassing, awkward, mundane, and utterly human aspect of space research and travel. The Publishers Weekly review describes that “despite all the high-tech science that has resulted in space shuttles and moonwalks, the most crippling hurdles of cosmic travel are our most primordial human qualities: eating, going to the bathroom, having sex and bathing, and not dying in reentry. Readers learn that throwing up in a space helmet could be life-threatening, that Japanese astronaut candidates must fold a thousand origami paper cranes to test perseverance and attention to detail, and that cadavers are gaining popularity over crash dummies when studying landings.”

One of the best aspects of Roach's research is that she throws herself into the project - she experiences parabolic flights in the "vomit comet", practices on zero gravity toilets, and drinks her own treated urine in the NASA cafeteria. She is unquestionably t
he type of adventurous friend who would lead you to delicious, scandalous, memory-making trouble. She can even make Jon Stewart

This book is a work of art. It is the dark and dirty and juicy details of rocket science. Roach is brilliant, unfailingly inquisitive, and laugh out loud funny. If my college physics professor had been this interesting I could be working at NASA by now. Well, maybe not.