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Maybe you could ask about what astronauts like to read in space. What kinds of books can they bring? (I imagine earlier missions had weight restrictions - now they could bring hundreds of books on a eReader). What about audio books? It's a long road-trip to Mars.
ninjapenguin I'd recommend The Annals of Improbable Research blog (http://improbable.com/)
- Mary, how did you come to choose the topic for Packing for Mars?
- Did the recent NASA budget cuts have any effect on your researching and writing this book?
- The chapters on the Japanese and Soviet space programs were a great touch to the book, and I wonder how hard it was for you to gain access to these agencies?
- I'm envisioning the next book in the series, "Packing for Jupiter" (or more likely, "Packing for Venus"). How about it? Can you be bribed into another book on the topic?!
- Your writing makes me laugh out loud. Are there any authors who have the same effect on you?
- I saw your recommended reading in "The Week" and bought the ones you suggested that I hadn't already read... so I'm ready for additional suggestions; have any?
PS: If you're looking for recommendations, I think 3 nontechnicals works you'd like are Carrying the Fire: An Astronaut's Journeys by Michael Collins, The Unbroken Chain by Guenter Wendt, and Failure is not an Option by Gene Kranz.
Edited for additional questions.
Here are a few questions for Ms Roach:
Clearly this book focuses on aspects of space travel that have never been explored, and some of which are perhaps uncomfortable to contemplate.
How open were astronauts and technical support people to talking with you about the particular aspects you raise?
What if anything were the reactions of NASA to your requests, positive and negative? Were some nation's programs more forthcoming with information than others?
Please tell us how you went about investigating and writing this book. Did you do extensive research first, before putting pen to paper (so to speak), or did you write as you investigated? Did you ever find that gaining information from one source led to you to go back to a previous one for clarification and correction?
Next, given your great success as an author, please tell us about the mechanics of your writing. Do you work on a daily schedule, and /or set aside a certain number of hours per day? Do you have a particular location where you do your best writing, or can you do it anywhere? Do you escape from writing at nights and on weekends, or is the activity more consuming than that? And finally, does your writing entail many drafts, or do you find your first draft is already in fine form?
Finally, what's your next book likely to be? Is there any chance that you might delve into aspects of space flight and the space program further ?
I'm also in fanboy/boyish-crush mode with this author, so it's hard to ask...umm, appropriate questions, but I'd definitely like to know if she has decided on the topic of her next book yet. (You can tell her there's a huge microbiology fan here on LT who'd love her even more if she chose that! =P)
But as funny as the book is it's grounded in lots of hard facts. And those facts seem to indicate that given the current state of technology and the limitations of the human body it's rather a dicey proposition that anyone would survive the journey to Mars and back. Given all that Mary learned does she think we can be successful sending humans to Mar and get them home in in one piece? I'm a big fan of the manned space program but until Scotty can beam us up I'm starting to think robots can do it better.
And, unrelatedly, what are her favorite web sites?