In a novel, including the description of an odor when describing a place is a powerful writing tool, because unless the feature characteristic of a place is customarily associated by a particular odor, like a garbage dump, or a fish market, we generally omit the sense of smell in our imagination.
When we think of outer space, we visualize a deep black, endless sky with distant bright stars, but our imaginations don’t include what outer space smells like, because most of us have never been there.
In a recent astonishing disclosure, astronauts have said that outer space smells like meat.
Astronauts claimed the smell aboard the International Space Station is reminiscent of meat, or more precisely, “seared steak”. And many astronauts share the same view regarding the meat scent.
Astronauts made note of the “seared steak” aroma after stepping back into the space station and removing their helmets, because the odor clings to their suit, helmet, gloves and tools.
Another outer space smell astronauts described was the sweet metallic scent of welding fumes.
Astronaut Don Pettit explained that each time he repressed the airlock aboard the International Space Station, opened the hatch and welcomed workers inside, a peculiar odor tickled his olfactory senses.
“At first,” says Pettit, “I couldn’t quite place it. It must have come from the air ducts that re-pressed the compartment. Then I noticed that this smell was on their suit, helmet, gloves, and tools. It was more pronounced on fabrics than on metal or plastic surfaces.”
Pettit said the sweet metallic scent reminded him of his college summers where he labored for many hours with an arc welding torch repairing heavy equipment for a small logging outfit.
“Space,” astronaut Tony Antonelli has said, “definitely has a smell that’s different than anything else.”
Three-time spacewalker Thomas Jones said space “carries a distinct odor of ozone, a faint acrid smell.”
NASA chemist Steven Pearce, who was hired to recreate the space odor on Earth for astronaut training purposes, said the metallic aspect of the scent could come from high-energy vibrations of ions.
Discover Magazine explained what astronauts probably smell are polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, which form during combustion during the death of a star. “These compounds can also be found in earth-bound materials, like bacon, and are considered carcinogenic.”
According to the Atlantic, a few years back, a dust cloud in the middle of the Milky Way was found to include the ethyl formate molecule, which is a compound that helps give raspberries their flavor and rum its scent.
According to one researcher, the aroma astronauts inhale as they move their mass from space to station is the result of “high-energy vibrations in particles brought back inside which mix with the air.”
Who would have guessed outer space had a specific smell?