Kindle Highlights from Packing for Mars – Mary Roach

Packing for Mars was both informative and hilarious! It touched on all those things about space travel that the average person doesn’t think about. Then, when you do, you’re like..wait. How does..whaaaat. It was awesome!

I had the pleasure to meet Mary Roach and get my book signed, years ago. You got it.. I re-purchased the Kindle edition, and finished the book. OOPS. Well, better late than never!

Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void by Mary Roach

You have 73 highlighted passages
Last annotated on October 15, 2014

  • Welcome to space. Not the parts you see on TV, the triumphs and the tragedies, but the stuff in between—the small comedies and everyday victories. – Location 113
  • Space exploration is in some ways an exploration of what it means to be human. How much normalcy can people forgo? For how long, and what does it do to them? – Location 124
  • According to more than one astronaut memoir, one of the most beautiful sights in space is that of a sun-illumined flurry of flash-frozen waste-water droplets. – Location 131
  • Space doesn’t just encompass the sublime and the ridiculous. It erases the line between. – Location 132
  • “One thousand cranes.” JAXA’s chief medical officer, Shoichi Tachibana, introduces himself. He’s been standing quietly behind us. Tachibana came up with the test. A Japanese tradition holds that a person who folds a thousand cranes will be granted health and longevity. – Location 167
  • “Deterioration of accuracy shows impatience under stress,” – Location 179
  • Trying to work the tether is like dealing cards with oven mitts on. – Location 185
  • The directions show a tiny puff beside an arrow pointing at the bird. It makes sense if you already know what to do. Otherwise, it’s wonderfully surreal: Put a cloud inside a bird. – Location 191
  • America’s first astronauts were selected by balls and charisma. – Location 194
  • Up through Apollo 11, every mission included a major NASA first. First trip to space, first orbit, first spacewalk, first docking maneuver, first lunar landing. Seriously hairy shit was going down on a regular basis. – Location 196
  • (Antarctica is a useful analog for space, and people who thrive there are thought to be psychologically well equipped for the isolation and confinement of space travel.) – Location 245
  • All through the space station era, the ideal astronaut has been an exceptionally high-achieving adult who takes direction and follows rules like an exceptionally well-behaved child. – Location 324
  • If you want the Russian volunteers to do a good job with your research, he says, you “better pack vodka and a salami with your experiment.” – Location 436
  • “it’s nothing” (Gushin’s words) for a Russian man to kiss a woman at a party. And that if you want him to stop, you slap him. That “no” means “maybe.” And that when Russian men bloody each other’s noses, it’s “a friendly fight.” – Location 447
  • He takes issue with the way space agencies portray astronauts as superhuman. “As if they don’t have any hormones, they don’t have any feelings for anybody.” It comes back yet again to a fear of negative publicity and diminished funding. – Location 455
  • A SPACE STATION is a rangy monstrosity, a giant Erector Set assembled by a madman. – Location 476
  • Psychologists use the term “irrational antagonism” to describe what happens between people isolated together for more than about six weeks. – Location 492
  • Sometime around the sixth week of a mission, says University of California, San Francisco, space psychiatrist Nick Kanas, astronauts begin to withdraw from their crewmates, become territorial, and displace their hostility for each other onto Mission Control. – Location 520
  • space agencies tend to use astronauts as “cap coms”—capsule communicators.) – Location 534
  • It’s a bar. In Russia you can buy a desk with a built-in bar! – Location 550
  • “Only in space do you understand what incredible happiness it is just to walk. To walk on Earth.” – Location 569
  • To find out what would happen to a man alone in the cosmos, at some point you just had to lob one up there. – Location 625
  • White makes a move toward the hatch, saying, “This is the saddest moment of my life.” – Location 689
  • (As brain cells die from oxygen starvation, euphoria sets in, and one last, grand erection.) – Location 699
  • ‘Boris, there are people who are your relatives due to blood connection. But there are also people who are your relatives due to things you do together. Now you are closer to me than your brother or sister. We landed. We are alive. The prize is life.’” – Location 778
  • Gravity is why there are suns and planets in the first place. It is practically God. In the beginning, the cosmos was nothing but empty space and vast clouds of gases. Eventually the gases cooled to the point where tiny grains coalesced. These grains would have spent eternity moving through space, ignoring each other, had gravitational attraction not brought them together. Gravitation is the lust of the cosmos. – Location 858
  • The sign on the front is as evocative and preposterous as the engraved brass one that says Ministry of Silly Walks in the Monty Python sketch of the same name. This sign says REDUCED GRAVITY OFFICE. – Location 981
  • It is for rescuing someone who is being electrocuted in such a manner that the electricity has contracted his hand muscles, making him grip the very object that is killing him. If you try to pull him away by grabbing his arm, then your hand muscles too will contract, and now you both need rescuing. The pole is nonconductive, enabling the savvy rescuer to save a life without joining the growing conga line of electrocution victims. – Location 996
  • The colon uses the uterus as a beanbag chair. – Location 1060
  • (When I get back to my room to review my notes, I find that I’ve written nothing of substance. I wasn’t so much taking notes as testing my Fisher Space Pen. My notes say: “WOO” and “yippee.”) – Location 1068
  • It’s like the Rapture in here every thirty seconds. Weightlessness is like heroin, or how I imagine heroin must be. You try it once, and when it’s over, all you can think about is how much you want to do it again. – Location 1083
  • Human machinery tends to overheat for the same reason. Without fans, all the heat that exercising astronauts generate would hang around their body in a tropical miasma. As would exhaled breath. Crew members who hang their sleeping sacks in poorly ventilated spots get carbon dioxide headaches. – Location 1101
  • Motion sickness drugs don’t make you immune; they simply raise the threshold for sickness. – Location 1176
  • The whale’s diaphragm and rib muscles aren’t strong enough to expand its lungs and raise the now far heavier blubber and bone that press in on them, and the animal suffocates. – Location 1324
  • Coming down is as scary as going up. – Location 1358
  • Apollo astronauts had to be between 5 feet 5 and 5 feet 10. It was a simple, inflexible cutoff, the governmental version of the sign by the amusement park ride: MUST BE THIS TALL TO RIDE. – Location 1449
  • Think of wrestling a comatose drunk into a taxicab. – Location 1474
  • My favorite line of the day so far has been Bolte’s: “Is he leaking badly from anything major?” – Location 1479
  • Ham’s much-publicized flight made it clear to all: The astronaut doesn’t fly the capsule; the capsule flies the astronaut. – Location 1572
  • The careers of Ham and Enos—the chimpanzees who, in 1961, flew the dress rehearsals for the first U.S. suborbital (January) and orbital (November) flights were in some respects not all that far off from the careers of Alan Shepard and John Glenn. – Location 1588
  • I used to hear about Glenn’s historic flight and think, “Man, what was that like—being the first NASA astronaut to orbit the Earth?” Now I know. It was like visiting the eye doctor. – Location 1609
  • “He was a mean one,” Fineg recalled when we spoke. Staff nicknamed him Enos the Penis. “Because he was just a son of a gun.” “Meaning he was a dick.” “Yeah.” – Location 1652
  • They played a vital role in the country’s space efforts, but I would not use the term “heroes.” For the simple reason that no bravery was involved in what they did. A courageous feat is one undertaken with an understanding of the dangers involved. – Location 1736
  • Valentina Tereshkova, the first woman in space, said in a 2007 interview that reaching Mars was the dream of the early cosmonauts and that she would love, at seventy-two, to realize that dream: “I am ready to fly without coming back.” – Location 1785
  • Unlike on the Earth, where the planet’s magnetic field wards off charged particles of solar wind, these particles bombard the moon’s surface and impart an electrostatic charge. Moon dust clings like dryer socks. – Location 1900
  • (One of the less heroic aspects of a spacewalk: Someone will have to help you pull up your pants.)* – Location 1915
  • Apollo astronauts were not allowed to drive farther from the safety of the Lunar Module than the distance they could walk without running out of oxygen, in case the rover broke down. – Location 1956
  • Staff at NASA Ames, in California, can dial a four-digit extension and reach Lee, a couple hundred miles from the magnetic North Pole, on an in-house call. – Location 1989
  • The safety manager of the eighth Apollo mission once famously pointed out: “Apollo 8 has 5,600,000 parts…. Even if all functioned with 99.9 percent reliability, we could expect 5,600 defects.” – Location 2020
  • Some people* are genetically unable to smell (i.e., they’re anosmic to) one or both of the two BO heavies: 3-methyl-2-hexanoic acid and androstenone. – Location 2102
  • Most Americans don’t wash often enough to cause skin problems, but they certainly wash more than necessary. In the words of some academic I can’t name because I’ve lost the first page of his paper, “Personal hygiene as practiced in the U.S. today is largely a cultural fetish, actively promoted by those with commercial interests.” – Location 2160
  • Dandruff is caused by an inflammatory skin response to oleic acid, which the scalp fungus Malassezia globosa excretes after dining on your scalp oils. – Location 2203
  • For years, Lovell recalls, his son would tell friends, “Dad orbited the Earth in his underwear!” – Location 2224
  • The human body is a frugal contractor. It keeps the muscles and skeleton as strong as they need to be, no more and no less. “Use it or lose it” is a basic mantra of the human body. – Location 2250
  • According to a 2003 article in Joint Bone Spine,* regardless of what ails you, it is almost always a good idea to get out of bed as soon as you can. – Location 2286
  • Tim received an autographed photo of Peggy Whitson. (“A total BAMF* astronaut,” he called her.) – Location 2321
  • I didn’t know whether to say something, or what that something would or should be. The moment passed, – Location 2782
  • It is probably not the first time that a bunch of guys got together and installed a closed-circuit video camera in a toilet bowl at a government agency. It is surely the first time it has happened with the blessings and financial backing of the agency. – Location 2872
  • The space toilet’s air flow is more than an alternate flushing method. It facilitates the Holy Grail of zero-gravity elimination: good separation. Air drag serves to pull the material away from its source. – Location 2922
  • A kitchen table makes little sense without gravity, but all long-duration spacecraft have them. Crews want to sit around the kitchen table at the end of the day to eat and talk and feel normal and forget for a moment that they’re hurtling utterly alone through the blackness of a deadly vacuum. – Location 2930
  • A spoon and an open container will work fine in zero gravity as long as the food possesses, to quote the adorable May O’Hara, “stick-to-it-ive-ness or whatever.” – Location 3215
  • (The Soviet space agency did not traditionally give cosmonauts steak and eggs before launch; it gave them a one-liter enema.) – Location 3297
  • (Methane is what utility companies sell, under the rubric “natural gas.”) – Location 3337
  • One hears tell of astronauts using intestinal gas like rocket propellant to “launch themselves across the middeck,” as astronaut Roger Crouch put it. He had heard the claims and was dubious. “The mass and velocity of the expelled gas,” he told me in an email that has forevermore endeared him to me, “is very small compared to the mass of the human body.” Thus it was unlikely that it could accelerate a 180-pound astronaut. – Location 3352
  • “My genes have blessed me with an extraordinary ability to expel some of the byproducts of digestion,” wrote Crouch. “So given that, I thought that it should be tested. In what I thought was a real voluminous and rapidly expelled purge, I failed to move noticeably.” – Location 3357
  • One of the things I love about manned space exploration is that it forces people to unlace certain notions of what is and isn’t acceptable. And possible. – Location 3446
  • It’s amazing what sometimes gets accomplished via an initially jarring but ultimately harmless shift in thinking. – Location 3448
  • The tougher question is not “Is Mars possible?” but “Is Mars worth it?” – Location 3456
  • I defer to the sentiments of Benjamin Franklin. Upon the occasion of history’s first manned flights—in the 1780s, aboard the Montgolfier brothers’ hot-air balloons—someone asked Franklin what use he saw in such frivolity. “What use,” he replied, “is a newborn baby?” – Location 3460
  • It was inspiring, what these men and women had done. They flew a delicate scientific instrument more than 400 million miles to Mars and set it down as gently as a baby, exactly where they wanted it. – Location 3473
  • No one goes out to play anymore. Simulation is becoming reality. – Location 3478
  • Ask an astronaut whether taking part in a space simulation is anything like being in space. What’s different? Sweat, risk, uncertainty, inconvenience. But also, awe. Pride. Something ineffably splendid and stirring. – Location 3480
  • Give me a chunk of asphalt and some shoe polish and I can make you a simulated Mars meteorite. What I can’t possibly simulate for you is the feeling of holding a 20-pound divot of Mars in your hands. – Location 3487

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