The Distinct Smell of Outer Space

When astronauts return from their spacewalks, an odd bouquet follows them in
By
Staff Writer

So, get this: Outer space—the final, adventurous frontier—smells funny.

This is one of those things that’s not only surprising, but never really even occurred to anyone, as far as we know.

According to the Atlantic.com, when astronauts return from spacewalks, they bring something in with them that sticks to their suits, and gives off…

…an odor that is distinct and weird: something, astronauts have described it, like 'seared steak.' And also: 'hot metal.' And also: 'welding fumes.'" 

Our extraterrestrial explorers are remarkably consistent in describing Space Scent in meaty-metallic terms. "Space," astronaut Tony Antonelli has said, "definitely has a smell that's different than anything else."  Space, three-time spacewalker Thomas Jones has put it, "carries a distinct odor of ozone, a faint acrid smell." 

Space, Jones elaborated, smells a little like gunpowder. It is "sulfurous."

The fact that there’s a smell at all may be due to a vast dust cloud of ethel-formate, recently discovered at the center of the galaxy. It’s an ester that gives rapsberries their tastes and smells something like rum.

Not so surprising is the fact that the International Space Station, to which the astronauts return, has its own peculiar smell—a mix described as having notes of sweaty feet, stale body odor, nail polish remover, gasoline…and the exhaled vodka brought aboard by Russian cosmonauts.

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