Packing For Mars By Mary Roach

Rating: 3.75/5

Recommended for: anyone with an interest in all the weird nasa training and test experiments throughout history.


  • The suffix ‘naut’ comes from the Greek and Latin words for ships and sailing. Astronaut suggests ‘a sailor in space.’

  • The most stressful part of being an astronaut is not getting to be an astronaut—it’s not knowing whether or when you’ll get a flight assignment.
  • In reality, maybe one percent of an astronaut’s career takes place in space, and one percent of that is done in a pressure suit. 
  • The Breakaway Effect: Separation from the earth with all of its unconscious symbolic significance for man….might in theory at least be expected to produce— even in a well-selected and trained pilot—something akin to the panic of schizophrenia. 
  • EVA height vertigo aka space walking: The image of earth rushing by some 200 miles below can cause paralyzing fear. You get the feeling that you are plummeting earth ward at 10 times or 100 times faster than a parachute free fall. 
  • When technical perfection of the steam engine made the development of railways possible, scientists were afraid that the velocity of the trains would exert harmful effects upon the human body. Locomotives at the time could not exceed 15 mph. 
  • Weightlessness is like heroin, or how I imagine heroin must be. You try it once, and when it’s over, all you could think about is how much you want to do it again.
  • Motion sickness drugs don’t make you immune; they simply raise the threshold for sickness. Even fish can get seasick. 
  • Human beings have this amazing tool called intuition, where they built up a catalog of experiences and they can draw on it instantaneously and spend one minute looking at a scene – whether it’s on Mars or the crimes scene— and know what happened here. 
  • Apollo 8 had 5,600,000 parts… Even if it functioned with 99.9% reliability, we could expect 5600 defects. 
  • Failing to plan is planning to fail. 
  • Deterioration of accuracy shows impatience under stress. 

  • Astronauts are coming home from six-month space station stints with 15 to 20% less bone than they had when they left. 
  • Cruising speed for a transcontinental passenger jet is between 500 and 600 mph. Do not bail out. A wind blast of 250 mph will blow an oxygen mask off your face. At 400 mph, windblast will remove a helmet. At 500 mph, air blasts down your windpipe with enough force to rupture various elements of your pulmonary system.
  • An outside estimate of the cost of a man mission to Mars is roughly the cost of the Iraq war to date: 500 billion.
  • Gravity is why there are suns and planets in the first place. It is practically God. 


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