Sunday, January 30, 2011
Book #4, 2011
Remember when TV networks used to have extensive coverage of every NASA launch, every splash-down, every landing? Remember that big digital clock with the T-minus whatever time was left? I remember in school we used to assemble in the auditorium or library to watch launches because it was a big fucking deal and we were supposed to be proud of it.
And then it all stopped. NASA is a government program, and after Reagan you were supposed to hate that stuff and be cynical about it and fight to slash it to the bone. The Simpsons did an episode more than 15 years ago where NASA was so desperate for TV ratings that they launched Homer into space (a great episode, by the way--wasn't Buzz Aldrin a guest?).
Now that we don't glorify astronauts the way we used to, Mary Roach felt free to write a book like Packing for Mars. She researched diligently all the stuff you wondered about life in space but were afraid to ask: How do astronauts poop in zero gees? Do they jerk off in space? How do they eat? What happens if you vomit in your space suit? Has anyone ever joined the Triple Dolphin Club (the astronaut equivalent to the Mile High Club)? What's it like being stuck inside a capsule the size of a VW Bug's front seat with two other guys for two weeks and nobody can take a shower?
Roach visits research facilities, interviews astronauts, NASA officials and spokespeople, and meets the scientists who do the studies (as well as their human and not guinea pigs). The book is full of terribly funny and ludicrous information. I won't tell you any of it because I think you should read it, even if space isn't your bag--Roach is hella funny. I won't tell you why she watches a porn trilogy with Silvia Saint, and I definitely won't tell you what an "escapee" is, but I laughed so hard reading that chapter that I almost choked up my spleen. I'm going to check out her other books Stiff and Bonk.