07 October 2010

Day 194: Packing for Mars

Packing for Mars by Mary Roach.  ISBN: 9780393068474.

First off, I'm going to recommend that anyone disgusted by bodily functions not read the posts about this particular title.  Roach more or less tells us everything we wanted to know about how astronauts do things in space, even though we don't really want to know.  For the 12-year-olds in my audience, keep reading.

Oh my god, I don't want to go to space anymore.  As cool and amazing as it would be to fly in a soup can and be able to look down on the earth, I now fully appreciate the joys of pooping with the aid of gravity.  I am very much in awe of the scientists who were both willing and able to figure out the problems of dropping loads waste management in zero gravity.  And unfortunately not all of the problems have really been solved.

Apparently floating runaway poop is a very, very common occurrence.  Imagine: you're just kicking back watching the earth speed away from you and wondering at how amazing it is, only to have a hard flash-frozen floater bump you like a small, friendly brown dolphin.  I don't know about you, but I'm flailing in "ick factor" right now.

So, not only does gravity help keep poop in it's place, but it also helps tell you when it needs to go there.  Without gravity you are prone to soiling yourself and actually have to plan trips to the bathroom, regardless of whether or not your body is telling you to go.  Apparently in zero gravity, even the fluids inside you bounce around, oh god, pooponauts are using your colon as their own private space shuttle.  Roach actually inserts bits of NASA transcripts and in one there's an exchange between two astronauts where "poop time" is scheduled, as in one of our heroes of space turns to the other and says, 'Dave, I'd like to take a crap sometime.'  Ah, the glamorous life of an astronaut.

I'm not going to give you the details of actually pinching loaves in space, but let's say it involves far more work than I'm willing to put into it and being far more intimate with fecal matter than I ever want to be.  I'll let the other guys fly to space, but if they ever figure out artificial gravity, and need a good librarian, I'll be happy to take a job at the International Lunar Library and Archives.  Just don't ask me to shit like an astronaut.

 A good review can be found over at one of my favorite book blogs, eclectic/eccentric.

As a bonus, I created this work for Better Book Titles, which is an often hilarious and amazing blog if you have a basic knowledge of literature.


  1. This sounds really interesting! I recently finished Roach's book Stiff and if this is anything like Stiff, I'll bet it's really funny. Thanks for sharing!

  2. No problem Brenna, I'm glad you weren't grossed out by the discussion of poop in space. It's definitely worth checking out, although most of it focuses more on the preparing to go into space rather than actually being in space. So go into the book with that in mind and it should be a wonderful ride.

  3. Poop as a "small, friendly brown dolphin"?

    I think you just found Rupert's nemesis.

  4. I think Dayna might be on to something...

  5. Holy crap (in a manner of speaking)! That was hilarious, and yet informative. I remember hearing about this book and thinking that it might be interesting except that I didn't really want my illusions shattered. Yeah, I think I'll "pass" on this one, but I really do appreciate your bravery. And the book cover. Totally love that. 8-D

  6. Dayna and Dan,
    I will have to ponder that, however, Rupert and his magical pony friends had a nautical adventure pretty recently. Maybe Poopo the Brown Dolphin can be a side adventure with Mr. Scrubbers from the Rupert canon.

    Thanks for the flattery. I do wish you would give the book a try because there are some pretty interesting feats, although most of them do no make sane people want to be astronauts. And by sane people I mostly mean fatkids who enjoy a good, normal poop every now and then and keeping their food down.


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