Walk outside. Inhale deeply. What do you smell? The crisp aroma of fresh pine needles, dawn’s dew drops from your garden—perhaps the nauseous fumes of city streets? Molecular interactions—sometimes pleasant, sometimes downright nasty—are responsible for everything you sniff here on earth, and according to news, in the universe, too.
That’s right, space has its own signature scent. And it kind of stinks. The good folks at The Atlantic have reported a phenomenon we earthlings haven’t really considered—the idea of smelling something outside of our own atmosphere. Sure, we can view gaseous clouds and asteroids thanks to telescopes, and we can even hear the faint buzz of microwave radiation when we turn the TV to static, but odor is the one thing that’s hard to picture. Luckily, we can turn to the brave space walkers for first-hand accounts, and they have some interesting olfactory descriptors to report after a walk around their man-made satellites, including “seared steak,” “sulfurous,” or from the nose of astronaut Thomas Jones, “a faint acrid smell.” You can’t technically breathe up there, so these aromas might be the cause of chemical reactions between the universe itself and materials in a space suit. At any rate, there’s something funky happening up above.
NASA has commissioned scent chemist Steve Pearce, who previously replicated the scent of the Mir space station for an art exhibit, to clone the celestial aroma on home terrain. “If we can reproduce that odor, it would be useful in adding realism to the training here on Earth,” Pearce told Discovery.com. Light-years ahead, do you think eau de cosmos will have shelf space alongside Chanel No. 5?