Guest contributor: Salome (Sali) Goglichidze from Georgia

“In Packing for Mars, Roach tackles the strange science of space travel, and the psychology, technology, and politics that go into sending a crew into orbit.”

Curiosity – this word will always remind me of Mary Roach and her literature. Three of her bestsellers have the word “CURIOSITY” in the title (Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life on the Void; Stiff: the Curious Life of Human Cadavers; Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex). I was excited when we decided in the reading group to read one of these books, Packing for Mars.

My interest in scientific literature has grown fast especially in the last period. Initially, the reason for joining the reading group was exactly the fact that I wanted to read and discuss with others the kind of literature that would be cognitive and that could enlarge my consciousness. And here we are. Packing for Mars has been the best start for me, as I really enjoyed reading it and I’m willing to read more scientific literature in the future.

Before I started reading the book, I thought it would tell me something similar to what I had already heard about life in space, I had watched in the movies or TV shows, or, at least, had imagined. But I was totally wrong. Of course, it was about how scientists have been preparing for living in zero gravity, how science and technologies have developed during this preparation and how the criteria for being a perfect astronaut have changed over time, but it had nothing in common with what I had watched or heard, and, moreover, it was not even a bit close to my imaginations.

I could have thought before that after really good trainings and preparations and after paying lots of money, of course, I could have a chance to travel in space. But now, having realized the existence of so many physical and psychological criteria for being an astronaut, I am absolutely sure there is nothing in the world that makes me able to look at the earth as a blurry ball hanging in the space.

It was curiosity of Mary Roach, the “America’s funniest science writer” (Peter Carlson, Washington Post) that made the book so interesting. Although the author had never had any experience and knowledge of the science of space before she started writing the book, it is a great collection of interviews, voice histories from NASA, various researches and the experiments, mainly with the participation of the author herself. Without reading the book, I would hardly believe so deeply how the expression “failing to plan is planning to fail” is so true about the space. The quote from Globe and Mail proves that I am not the only one who has changed her opinions about the science of space after reading the book: “[Roach] astonished me…educated me, entertained me, cracked me up repeatedly, forced me to rethink some long-held beliefs…”

Sali, Mary Roach, and Carol
April 15, 2014

I was extremely happy when I heard about Mary Roach’s visit at Penn State. It has been a great honor to listen to such an interesting women talking about her interests, curiosities, experience, strengths and difficulties while writing the books. Mary’s talk turned out to be as full of humor and joy as her writings. While talking to her, it was even greater honor to find out that I am the first Georgian having her autograph. 🙂

Curiosity – “Now this word belongs to me”, Mary said. And how can one disagree, when this only word perfectly describes not only her books but their author as well. I am happy I had an opportunity to be familiar with both – Mary Roach and her literature.