We’ve all gazed up at the night sky, observing the movement of the constellations and wishing on fleeting glimpses of falling stars, while simultaneously feeling both small and humbled by the vastness of space and grateful for our mere existence in the universe, to experience such things at all.
But…have you ever contemplated how it smelled? You know, up there in space?
Wait…what were we talking about again?
If someone had asked me, I would have guessed that space smells something like a combination of the spark and sizzle of ozone, a shock of lightning that frizzles your hair white straight to the roots. An alarming gasp of frozen air while chasing a runaway poodle through the streets of your once familiar neighborhood, turned luminous and shiveringly strange after an evening’s heavy snowfall. Dry and a bit dusty, not like old books, but rather reminiscent of the dark recesses of ancient caves, of sediment, strata, and secrets. All of these things, maybe none of them. Imagining the aroma of the cosmos proves to be an elusive exercise for me, it seems, puny earthbound human that I am.
Apparently, decades ago, NASA asked specialists to develop the “smell of space” to help train astronauts before launch into orbit:
“The history of the “Smell of Space” has been clouded behind various accounts of existence. Ever since the first spacewalk, astronauts were shocked by the lingering odor when returning back into the spacecraft. Some describe it as gun powder, rum, fruit, seared steak, or a BBQ. The first space tourists also noted a pungent aroma once the hatch opened, ‘like burnt cookies’. “
Eau de Space was launched as a Kickstarter project—one so astronomically popular, that it has already far surpassed its original fundraising goal to the final number of $614,376. They even did a limerick for it on NPR’s Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me:
When an astronaut comes back to base,
there’s a scent that’s not easy to trace.
It clings to the suit, smells like steak, rum and fruit.
Let’s distill it and sell eau de…
I didn’t catch this project in time to grab a bottle, but I believe that Sam did! Let’s hope she reports in with her thoughts….