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Packing for Mars Discussion Questions

  1. Did you or someone you know want to become an astronaut when you were a kid? Has this book changed your view of what it would be like? How?
  2. What do you think is the hardest part about being an astronaut? Easiest?
  3. Potential astronauts are observed for a number of days in close quarters with other candidates to see how they cope in stressful situations. How do you think you would fare in this type of experiment? Would you make it to the end? What type of personality traits would you need to make it through?
  4. When Mary Roach visits the Flight Analogs Research Unit, she meets people who are paid to lie in bed to simulate the body’s degradations during space flight. Besides the money, why would people be interested in becoming human guinea pigs? Would you consider trying this?
  5. Roach talks about the first test flights using rhesus monkeys after World War II. What do you think of this type of animal testing? Was it necessary? How could it have been different?
  6. Why do you think humans are so fascinated by the prospect of visiting Mars and beyond? What is it about the unknown that is so intriguing?
  7. Why do you think nations glorify astronauts? Do they risk more than people in other dangerous professions?
  8. Cultural differences can cause major problems on space flights. How do you think space agencies should deal with these differences? How can people from various national backgrounds be taught to understand other cultures?
  9. How do you think the space program will progress in the future? Do you think we should try to reach the outer limits of visible space?
  10. Roach ends her work very optimistically about the future of space travel. After reading about all the dangers and costs associated with space travel, do you think it is worth it?
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