What does Space smell like?
When astronauts return from space walks and remove their helmets, they have reported an odor that smells almost like a “seared steak and “hot metal.”
After a 2003 mission, astronaut Don Pettit described it this way on a NASA blog:
“It is hard to describe this smell; it is definitely not the olfactory equivalent to describing the palette sensations of some new food as ‘tastes like chicken.’ 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.”
Astronaut’s have largely agreed on the scent.
Three-time spacewalker Thomas Jones said returning to the ISS, ‘carries a distinct odor of ozone, a faint acrid smell.’ and is ‘sulfurous’.
Space, Jones elaborated, smells a little like gunpowder. It is “sulfurous.”
The source? Dying stars. The by-products of all this combustion are smelly compounds called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. These hydrocarbons can be found on Earth in coal, oil and even food.