- Many readers commented that the author really gave a lot of information about things that they had wondered about, and made them really think about how important things are in space that we take for granted every day. As one person put it, the whole “input/output” of everyday life is a big deal in space.
- One reader commented that Mary Roach would be a fun date; she’s completely uninhibited! And no .. not in a weird way …. but that conversation with her would probably be fascinating. A few readers commented on how the author’s fearless curiosity is something that drives all of her books, and makes them interesting to read.
- The author’s use of footnotes was something else we all discussed. One reader said that he didn’t see how else she could work this information into the text, and liked how she used the footnotes. Another reader agreed, and said that she enjoyed how the author put the footnotes right into the text, so that she wasn’t having to look in the back of the book.
- One person made an interesting statement. He said that he thought astronauts were like modern-day knights, in that people tend to exaggerate the cool aspects of who they are and what they do. Another reader replied that they could see what he was talking about, and how one could see a knight, for example, as looking great, but that the armor, itself, was pretty uncomfortable.
- For many of us, the book brought to light some of the aspects of space travel that we never really thought about, and not just the logistics of eating, for example. One person said she had never thought about the loneliness of space travel, and another mentioned the immobilization some astronauts endure. We also talked about how we hadn’t considered how important it would be for people in these situations to get along well with one another. As one person said, the “right stuff” for Apollo was exactly the “wrong stuff” for long journeys. As he put it, “You need to be a Clark Kent, as opposed to being a Superman.” Well put!
- Many people liked the author’s writing style. One person mentioned that she thought the author did a nice job of linking her books together; for example, the author mentions the use of cadavers in impact studies in this book, which she also mentioned in another book, Stiff (which this group also read and discussed). Many of us liked the humor in the book, which one person described as being quirky. Another reader said he thought she does a wonderful job of using one sentence to transition from one chapter to the next, which is something we admitted we don’t think about until it’s done this well. We also talked about how much research the author does, and how well she puts so much information together so that it’s coherent and has a good flow.
- One person had read the review of the book in The New York Times, and mentioned something from that review that had also caught the eye of another person in the group. In that review, it was mentioned that while Roach delves into quite a bit of detail about many things, that she doesn’t really broach the subject of emotion. The reviewer cited the part in the book where Roach spoke to Jon Clark, who investigated the 2003 Columbia accident, in which his wife was killed. We all talked about this, and how the author has taken this approach before. One reader said he found this completely normal — that the author gets into the nitty-gritty details of something, but not the emotion. She conveys a lot of information, and throws in some humor to make it lighter and more readable, but that it’s not really necessary to get into the emotional details of something (like the example with Jon Clark).
- We also generally discussed our reactions to Roach’s book, as far as whether or not humans should continue to research more space exploration. One person said that he thought the author did a great job with the book, and it made him think about how well humans are adapted to being on Earth …. and is it practical to think that humans could actually relocate to living on a different planet? Another person said that this made him think about the size of the challenge of this; that it’s not just science and structure of what we travel in, but the logistics of actually adding in humans. Another person brought up that he thought about not only the economics of pursuing this kind of research, but he thought about how “we, on Earth, are extremely vulnerable.” He felt that space exploration research was necessary because at some point, humans may need to move off Earth to actually survive.
- Readers liked that the author gave a lot of details in the book. A few people mentioned that this was the kind of book they might not have read, if it weren’t a book group selection, and were glad that they had read it. Overall, readers enjoyed it and felt it was a good selection.
Lastly, I’m including a link that one of our readers mentioned, to NASA’s Mars Program Planning Group, if anyone would like to read about that.
If you’d like to add your own comments about this book, please do! We welcome the opportunity to continue the discussion.