How To Drive On Mars Jalopnik

In “Packing for Mars,” author Mary Roach details the strange science of putting humans in space. In this exclusive excerpt she details how we’re practicing for driving on Mars in a remote and barren wasteland here on Earth. — Ed.
Once upon a time, astronauts tooled around the moon in an open two-seat electric buggy. It was the sort of thing one might see on a golf course or at one of those big Miami delis whose elderly patrons appreciate a lift to and from the parking lot. It gave lunar exploration in the seventies a relaxed, retirement-community feel. That’s gone now. NASA’s new rover prototypes more resemble a futuristic camper van. The entire cab is pressurized, which is good, because that means the astronauts can take off their bulky, uncomfortable white bubble-head EVA suits. The NASA shorthand for a pressurized interior is “a shirtsleeve environment,” which makes me picture astronauts in polo shirts and no pants. If NASA ever builds an outpost on the moon,* astronauts will be undertaking rover traverses of unprecedented length and complexity. Teams of explorers will head out in two vehicles that rendezvous daily, finally returning to the base after two weeks on the roll. The new rovers sleep two and are equipped with a food warmer, a toilet with “privacy curtain,” and cup holders (two).