Book Review

How do astronauts go to the bathroom in zero gravity?

By Peter Carlson
Sunday, August 15, 2010


The Curious Science of Life in the Void

By Mary Roach

Norton. 334 pp. $25.95

Between the belly laughs, you learn a lot of surprising stuff in Mary Roach's "Packing for Mars" -- the kind of delightfully useless facts that will amaze your friends at parties. Facts like these:

-- During a week in space, with no gravity tugging at their spines, astronauts grow two inches taller.

-- Researchers requiring a vomit-like substance for scientific studies use Progresso vegetable soup.

-- A V-2 rocket launched in New Mexico in 1947 zoomed wildly off course and crashed three miles from downtown Juarez, Mexico.

-- In 1965, astronaut John Young smuggled a corned-beef sandwich aboard the Gemini III capsule and into space.

-- During the 1969 Apollo 10 mission, astronaut Thomas Stafford noticed an unpleasantly post-digestive object floating through the weightless cabin, and the official mission transcript recorded this conversation:

"Who did it?" Stafford asked.

"I didn't do it," Young said. "It ain't one of mine."

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