Science fiction movies and novels dealing with long exploration missions to deep space rarely deal with the complexities of our bodies surviving during the long journey through space.
Or as the old question asks, "Where does Captain Kirk go to the bathroom?"
Mary Roach’s "Packing for Mars" not only looks at where Kirk would go, but how such a thing would be possible. It also looks at a lot of other questions that scientists and NASA have to and have addressed during humanity’s quest to explore space. From the earliest days of space travel when we wondered if gravity would be required for our internal organs and systems to continue working properly to the affects of long-term weightlessness on our muscle systems, Roach delves into the question of just how will our bodies survive or work during a long voyage to Mars. (Roach even deals with the question of whether its possible or reasonable to have sex in zero g, even watching an adult film that was allegedly shot in zero g).
All in all, the book is a fascinating one. Roach maintains a fine line between presenting the facts and having a sense of humor about things. She deals with a lot of bodily functions, but all of these are necessary to consider in whether or not its possible to send humans to Mars or on a long trip into outer space. While we’ve all thought about how humans would eat in space and use the bathroom, we’ve probably thought less about how hygiene can and would work in outer space. Will the space ships end up smelling like a locker room or worse? Also delved into are the on-going studies into motion sickness and the inherent dangers faced if you lose your cookies in a space suit.
Roach’s approach is a solid one with each aspect presented in an understandable, entertaining fashion. What could easily have been a dry subject is instead presented in a fascinating, readable way that will give you a new respect for the men and women who’ve gone into outer space in the past and those who will head out into the solar system and beyond in our future (hopefully).