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article imageWant to know what space smells like?

By Darren Weir     Jul 20, 2012 in Science
Have you ever wondered what it smells like out in space? Now NASA has hired a scent chemist to try to reproduce the odour.
You might think space wouldn't smell like much, but according to astronauts who have been there, it has a rather distinct... stench. The Atlantic reports that when the space cowboys return to the space station they are greeted with a smell that is being described as something like "seared steak" or "hot metal" Astronaut Thomas Jones, who has been on 3 space walks, says it, "carries a distinct odor of ozone, a faint acrid smell," adding it's "sulfurous." Space Station Science Officer Don Petit writes in Spaceflight, "I had the pleasure of operating the airlock for two of my crew mates while they went on several space walks." He says each time, "a peculiar odor tickled my olfactory senses." "I noticed that this smell was on their suit, helmet, gloves, and tools." "It is hard to describe this smell; it is definitely not the olfactory equivalent to describing the palette sensations of some new food as 'tastes like chicken.' The best description I can come up with is metallic.""It reminded me of pleasant sweet smelling welding fumes."
One researcher says the odour they inhale when they return to the space station, results from the "high-energy vibrations in particles brought back inside which mix with the air."
Now NASA has decided to try to recreate it, so future astronauts can prepare themselves for their adventure into the final frontier, and has hired scent chemist Steve Pearce to develop a perfume of space, right here on earth.
Pearce came to NASA's attention after putting together an exhibition of "extinct and impossible smells" including what the Space Station MIR would smell like. He tells Discovery, that the cosmonauts would bring vodka on board with them. "The metabolites cosmonauts breathed out from drinking it plus perspiration affected the filters -- and it lead to the formation of some pretty unpleasant-smelling materials such as acetone, acetaldehyde etc." And what would do you think that would that smell like? "Just imagine sweaty feet and stale body odor, mix that odor with nail polish remover and gasoline... then you get close."
More about Space, Smell, Astronauts, Space station, Scent