Mary Roach is on the road again, touring the country to promote her new book Packing for Mars. She was at the Belmont library late August on a Monday (the 30th), and I got to sit down, drink some Tang, and listen to her talk about NASA and space and astronauts.
Nobody Could Hear Me Scream . . . Because I Was Sitting Quietly & Listening Respectfully
Roach's books (including Stiff, Spook, and Bonk) are science books, but science books with humor, and she always experiments with questions that most other reporters avoid. In Bonk she investigated the effect of Viagra on pandas mating in captivity and in Stiff she found out that corpses can climax.
So of course her newest book has an entire chapter on sex in space, how could it not? But that wasn't the focus of her reading at the library. Instead, she launched into a spirited discussion about the mechanics of going to the bathroom in zero-gravity. As part of her research, NASA let her try out one of the space toilets, which works by using a vacuum to perform the role that gravity usually does in our planet-bound bathrooms. She reported to her audience that the space toilet is equipped with a video camera within the toilet bowl, pointed upwards to help you with proper positioning when you go to sit down, the image projected onto a screen in front of you, because an improper eclipse will result in quite the mess.
Astronauts: The Elite Men and Women of Science!
Astronauts. They're a colorful bunch. They go into space, where no one has gone very often before. They ride in the fastest, least-fuel efficient vehicle ever invented by mankind. They have insane love triangles and drive from Houston to Florida while wearing diapers. Every little kid wants to be one when he or she grows up!
Roach had more to report on astronaut activity. One of the holy grails of astronauts while in zero-gravity is to launch themselves across the flight deck of a space shuttle using only their flatulence. Now, to date, no one has reported a successful propulsion from one side to the other. In fact, of those who have even attempted, none have moved even one inch. Roach's correspondents express doubt that it can even be done, saying that exhaled breath doesn't move an astronaut, and that the amount of gas expelled in a fart (about the size of three soda cans) isn't enough to propel that much human mass. But such doubts are not enough to deter these brave men and women (but mostly the men) of science, and they are not about to give up trying.
All I have to say is that a rocket isn't going to move you unless you have ignition.
The name Josh Pearce literally means "co-traveler", "traveling companion" or "satellite." The first of these, Josh Pearce 1, was designed initially to carry nuclear warheads.