mordicai caeli (mordicai) wrote,
mordicai caeli
mordicai

  • Mood:
  • Music:

Open the pod bay doors please, HAL. (64)

Packing for Mars by Mary Roach.

The saloon sign says:
"even spacemen get the blues."
The grey moon dust blows.

Mary Roach wins a big chunk of slack from me just by calling herself a "humorist." See, I like my non-fiction on the more academic side of the trade/academic divide. Pop science is fine, but at some point I want to see annotations, bibliographies, & studies, rather than "scientists say..." Well! Miz Roach hits us with foot-loose footnotes, & a heaping helping of sources. See, she may be a humorist, but she's a journalist as well, & a dang well read one at that. So when she can't cite a paper or experiment-- & she usually can, if she brings up the topic-- she can cite a person, the actual human being she talked to about the information. She gets a lot of points just for that, for due diligence. Can you believe this is the first book of hers I've read? For all that I took forensics classes in college-- maybe because I did?-- I've avoided Stiff so far. Maybe I'll actually consider reading that, since I enjoyed this. About this? I feel like the "bang" is in the scatological; the book has gotten a lot of attention about her coverage of space toilets. That chapter is buried in the back, antepenultimate, but it is riveting, sort of like a car crash. There are just such a load of cultural taboos, & outer space just doesn't give a damn about your quaint notions of culture (or, ultimately, even Culture). I think she first had me when she off-handedly references that the real reason the cosmonauts had a pistol in their gear was because a capsule had once been attacked by hungry wolves (68). Oh outer space, oh Russian space program! Swoon. There is a bunch of talk about spacesuits, specifically about the David Clark Company, which reminded me of the book Spacesuits (250). Which soon segued into a discussion of a man who survived an SR-71 disintegrating around him at Mach 3.2 (257). Roach's strong suits are the anecdotes-- the footnote of how Muslims pray to Mecca in space, that sort of thing (292). There is also the fact that she's a sport. She'll drink her own purified urine for the sake of the story (311). That is hardcore. Colour me convinced. There is a part at the close which summarized my opinions on the space program better than my own rambling musing otherwise might. She brings up Ben Franklin's viewing of a manned balloon mission, after which he's asked what use it could possibly have. Franklin, that wit, replied "[w]hat is the use of a newborn child?" Apt, Benjamin, on point as usual. Or as Roach puts it: "Yes, the money could be better spent on Earth. But would it? Since when has money saved by government redlining been spent on education & cancer research? It is always squandered. Let's squander some on Mars."
Tags: books, haiku, packing for mars, roach
Subscribe
  • Post a new comment

    Error

    default userpic

    Your reply will be screened

    Your IP address will be recorded 

    When you submit the form an invisible reCAPTCHA check will be performed.
    You must follow the Privacy Policy and Google Terms of use.
  • 6 comments