NASA Culture: August 2010 Archives

Mary Roach's Packing for Mars: the Curious Science of Life in the Void will give you a whole new view of an astronaut's life

Frank Sietzen, Jr.: For most of us spacers human spaceflight is nothing to, well, joke about. After all, riding rockets into the cosmos is serious business, and there's nothing that NASA or we do better than take ourselves seriously - perhaps too seriously. In the last 30 years or so, only Tom Wolfe's "The Right Stuff" gave us permission to laugh out loud when contemplating some of the inconveniences of spaceflight. Until now, that is.

Mary Roach, one of America's most successful and prolific science writers, has made an art form out of picking a little known or understood area of science and doing some first-person research. In her "Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers", she tells us more than we'd ever wish to know about what happens to our bodies after we croak. In "Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife" she gives us a window on ghosts, spooks, and what many believe follows death. In "Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex" she throws herself into deconstructing the sexual impulse, visiting the top sex researchers in the world's universities and laboratories, while enlisting some front-line help from her long-suffering husband, no less.

In "Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void" Roach gives the same in-depth treatment to global preparations for long duration human spaceflight.

Citizen Scientists Discover Rotating Pulsar, NSF

"Idle computers are the astronomers' playground: Three citizen scientists--an American couple and a German--have discovered a new radio pulsar hidden in data gathered by the Arecibo Observatory. This is the first deep-space discovery by Einstein@Home, which uses donated time from the home and office computers of 250,000 volunteers from 192 different countries. This is the first genuine astronomical discovery by a public volunteer distributed computing project"

Keith's note: GSFC PAO has taken to bragging a bit. This little gem is posted at the bottom of some photo captions on their Flickr account: "NASA Goddard Space Flight Center is home to the nation's largest organization of combined scientists, engineers and technologists that build spacecraft, instruments and new technology to study the Earth, the sun, our solar system, and the universe."

Is this accurate? I'm not exactly certain that it is. The words they use are not exactly defined i.e. "organization". Perhaps GSFC PAO could provide the statistics upon which they make this claim.



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