The only thing uncertain in Mary Roach’s Packing For Mars is the title. Aside from some passing references to the red planet, the majority of the Roach’s book concentrates mainly on the granularity and the weirdness of preparing for life and travel in space.
Her subtitle is spot on, however. From the very outset, Roach dispenses with the mystique of space in favor of the curious, no, rather the unsettling scientific and unacommodating realities of space travel, in every aspect imaginable for human beings.
Roach illuminates for the reader all the behind-the-scenes, between-the-lines unpleasantries unaware to the typical science fiction or emerging space enthusiast such as myself. From the international space station cooperation that is lost in translation, to the unorthodox psychology and research upon and performed on behalf of astronauts chosen for selection, the fallacy of weightlessness (epsecially in parabolic testing), the secrets held by our sebum layers outside the atmosphere, and the ever continuing conundrum of preventing rogue escapees through creation of the ultimate space toilet, Roach provides damning evidence that not only will we always be out of our element in space, but that our greatest challenge in space originates completely from within ourselves rather than from our stars.
Biologically and psychologically we are our own worst enemy, to be sure. Even more so in the heavens. But as our futile enmity rages on down here on earth, there is no reason, as Roach appeals to the reader, to not push on and continue our exploration of the outer spheres. Space has never seemed so unfathomable and yet so cheekily inviting.