Mary Roach’s PACKING FOR MARS
Book review by Dennis D. McDonald
Somewhere in NASA and there must be an office plotting ways to replace human space explorers with machines. Reading this book explains why.
PACKING FOR MARS documents the practical challenges associated with making a human spaceflight routine. Feeding, bodily functions, vomiting, bone loss, muscle atrophy — they’re all here and described in a straightforward, detached, detailed, and usually entertaining way.
When you think of space tourism, don’t just think and how it will only be restricted to the rich, think of all the time it will take a train and prepare for the short time in space compared with how easy it now is to drive across town to your local airport to jump on a plane. It’s going to take a lot of time and money to get us to such a point with space travel, if ever.
Here’s a question: if you saw the movie INTERSTELLAR, why did NASA have to send humans on the exploratory voyages? Why not just robots given how advanced they are in that movie?
Human vs. machines. It’s a case of costs and benefits. I’m sure there’s a cadre of human space exploration supporters somewhere that is ready with the refrain, “The public would never have supported space travel without the human element!”
Probably there’s a lot of truth to that especially in the early days. But given the fabulous success of our Mars, Saturn, and Pluto missions (just to name a few) I’m not sure it’s still true.
Anyway, despite my believing I know a lot about the space program much of what is in this book is new to me concerning the details and challenges of keeping humans alive in space. You’ll get a much more humanized view of the space program after reading this book, and it’s not always the “squeaky clean” view that NASA has promoted for so long. (I have a sneaking suspicion that such censorship may actually harm the space program by making it seem less human than it really is.)
- Andy Weir’s THE MARTIAN
- Boris Chertok’s ROCKETS AND PEOPLE VOLUME 3: HOT DAYS OF THE COLD WAR
- Craig Nelson’s ROCKET MEN: The Epic Story of the First Men on the Moon
- Eric Hayden’s ASTRONAUT: THE LAST PUSH
- Sebastián Cordero’s EUROPA REPORT
- Brian DePalma’s MISSION TO MARS
- Bob Berman’s THE SUN’S HEARTBEAT: And Other Stories from the Life of the Star That Powers Our Planet
- Michael Carlowicz and Ramon Lopez’ STORMS FROM THE SUN
- Here’s Hoping for No More Wasted Space
Review copyright (c) 2015 by Dennis D. McDonald