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What Does Space Smell Like?

  What is the smell clinging to an astronaut after a spacewalk? Some have described it as an acrid aroma — others say it reminds them of seared steak.  After a 2003 mission, astronaut Don Pettit attempted to be a little more precise: The best description I can come up with is metallic; a rather...

Image credit: NASA

 

What is the smell clinging to an astronaut after a spacewalk? Some have described it as an acrid aroma — others say it reminds them of seared steak.  After a 2003 mission, astronaut Don Pettit attempted to be a little more precise:

The best description I can come up with is metallic; a rather pleasant sweet metallic sensation. It reminded me of my college summers where I labored for many hours with an arc welding torch repairing heavy equipment for a small logging outfit. It reminded me of pleasant sweet smelling welding fumes. That is the smell of space.

NASA hired chemist Steven Pearce to recreate the odor here on earth.  With his help astronauts-in-training get a little taste — or sniff — of what’s to come after liftoff.

For all the latest science news, check out the National Geographic’s twice-weekly news rundown, EarthCurrent.

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Meet the Author

Suzan Eaton
Systems specialist at NG Library.