1. Most reviewers have talked about the humor in Mary Roach's book, a number using the word "hilarious." What do you find particularly funny in Packing for Mars? Does her humor enhance her narrative...or, as one lonely reader thought, become tiresome and distracting?
2. Does this book's irreverent look at space travel deflate your balloon—reverence you may have felt for the men and women who don space suits and enter the zone of zero gravity? Does the book bring astronauts back down to earth a bit too precipitously for your taste? In other words, has Mary Roach made human space travel a noble endeavor...or an absurd one?
3. Talk about the toll that zero gravity has on humans—biologically and psychologically. What is the most difficult challenge for long-term manned (or womanned) space travel?
4. After having read this book, and knowing how space travel affects the human body and its bodily functions, would you, if given a chance, want to go into space? Of all the problems/issues Roach describes—biological, social, psychological—which would be the hardest for you?
5. After World War II, the first test flights using used rhesus monkeys. Was it necessary or ethical to use animals for this testing? Could there have been another way?
6. Did this book alter—or confirm—your view of NASA and the people who devote their lives to space travel? Do you feel differently about the entire space program—its long-range goals and its costs?
7. Should the U.S. continue its efforts to travel to Mars? With humans...or robots?
8. What were some of the things that most surprised you in reading Roach's book? Which chapters did you find most interesting...and why?
9. Of the former astronauts Roach interviewed, do any, in particular, stand out—some you admire more than others or found more engaging?
10. Do you think some of Roach's interview questions are too close to the bone—too personal or probing? Or do you think her inteview technique enables her to uncover valuable and heretofore unkown information?