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Astronaut life is less fun than we thought in book ‘Packing for Mars’

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Did you dream of becoming an astronaut? Well, good news: You didn’t miss out on much. At least, that’s what I took from Mary Roach’s Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void. When most of us think about NASA, we think about spacewalks and swagger. Roach thinks about poop, vomit and fungus. Which could make for a supremely engaging book—especially when combined with topics like zero-gravity three-ways, masturbating space monkeys and tips for surviving a falling elevator (lie down on your back). Yet, it doesn’t.

The Details

Packing for Mars
two stars
By Mary Roach, $26

That’s because Roach’s (unstated) thesis is a drag: Being an astronaut is miserable and the space program is silly. Oh, I’m sure Roach would deny holding this belief—in the final chapter, she advocates spending $500 billion on a manned Mars mission—but her book speaks for itself.

Still, Mars won’t dethrone Roach as America’s most entertaining popular science writer. Who else could pull off sentences like this?: “I will tell you sincerely and without exaggeration that the best part of lunch today at the NASA Ames cafeteria is the urine.”

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