Space has a smell. Weird. It has been described as a mixture of burnt steak and hot metal. Even weirder. And you can now buy this cosmic scent, which was originally designed to help train astronauts. Really 2020, what else can you throw at us.
The story begins in 2008, when NASA commissioned Steven Pearce, a food scientist and managing director of fragrance manufacturing company Omega Ingredients, to recreate the smell of space in a bottle. The purpose of which was to help make astronaut training programs even more realistic, by providing a full sensory experience of a trip to orbit. From accounts of astronauts who had already made the journey, the smell was pinpointed as a combination of “fried steak, hot metal, and even welding a motorbike.”
“The best description I can come up with is metallic; a rather pleasant sweet metallic sensation,” former International Space Station (ISS) space officer Don Pettit wrote in a blogpost back in 2003. “It reminded me of pleasant sweet smelling welding fumes. That is the smell of space.”
In fact, other aromas have been noted in the cosmos, including “spent gunpowder” moon dust, and a “raspberry and rum” dust cloud. The latter “smell” was inferred by the presence of ethyl formate (C3H6O2) near the center of our galaxy, a flavoring found in raspberries and rum.
Pearce’s fragrance had remained a “need to know” secret for years, but some Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests has recently revealed the recipe to Matt Richmond, product manager at Eau de Space. The company are now releasing the smell of space to the world via their Kickstarter page, where you can pledge money to send the scent to K-12 schools supporting STEM through experiential education, and also bag a bottle for yourself.
Having smashed their original Minimum Order Quantity, the company will be mailing out their fragrances later this year. In a post thanking their funders, Eau de Space revealed some of the other names discussed for their product, including “A Space Eau-de-ssey”, “Elon’s Musk” and “Space Scent Juice.”
But the smell of space is not the only activity at NASA to get noses sniffing. A team of “nasalnauts” volunteer to smell items before they are sent to the ISS, in case any are particularly potent – surprisingly amongst the stinkers are the humble Velcro straps.
Who knew that space was such a smelly business?