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Book Reviews


Packing for Mars – The Curious Science of Life in Space
Author: Mary Roach

Publisher: Oneworld

ISBN: 978-1-85168-780-0

Price: £8.99 (Pb) 312pp


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When Ed White ventured out for the first-ever NASA space walk, he enjoyed it more than anyone had expected. So much so that Mission Control had serious difficulty getting him back inside. White was exhibiting one of the first recorded cases of 'space euphoria'.

And what is the best way to bury a heroic chimp that died during a test flight into space? Did the Frank Borman, pilot of Gemini VII, really suffer from a bad case of space dandruff? This excellent book, one of the more enjoyable space books I've read this year, covers them in all their gory details.

When we think of space station astronauts, we think of intrepid, adventurous heroes. Yet this book reveals they are every bit as human as you and I. When Mir astronaut Jerry Linenger went out on a robotic arm EVA, he was hit by a “terrible and persistent” feeling of plummeting towards Earth. He had to force himself to keep his eyes open and not scream.

Mary Roach manages to rummage through the copious documentary and personal accounts of humans venturing beyond Earth in a thorough yet lighthearted fashion. Both physical and psychological difficulties of human space exploration are covered. More often that you might expect, chimpanzees and other unfortunate animals sent atop experimental rockets also make an appearance. Many of them, inevitably, didn't survive.

A brilliant book, suitable for anyone with an interest in human spaceflight or just a morbid fascination with how the body struggles to cope in zero-G. It's a shame there aren't any photographs – and there must be many in existence – within the book's pages. Then again, maybe it's best not to see astronauts urinating, vomiting and, in the case of some Soviet cosmonauts, fist fighting in their capsules!

John Rowlands

2009 Yearbook
This 132-page special edition features the ultimate observing guide for 2009, a review of all the biggest news stories of 2008, in depth articles covering all aspects of astronomy and space missions for 2009, previews of International Year of Astronomy events and much, much more.
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Infinity Rising
This special publication features the photography of British astro-imager Nik Szymanek and covers a range of photographic methods from basic to advanced. Beautiful pictures of the night sky can be obtained with a simple camera and tripod before tackling more difficult projects, such as guided astrophotography through the telescope and CCD imaging.
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Exploring Mars
Astronomy Now is pleased to announce the publication of Exploring Mars. The very best images of Mars taken by orbiting spacecraft and NASA's Spirit and Opportunity rovers fill up the 98 glossy pages of this special edition!
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Mars rover poster
This new poster features some of the best pictures from NASA's amazing Mars Exploration Rovers Spirit and Opportunity.
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