5 Oct 2008

How does space smell?

This intriguing question was put to some astronauts when they came back from trips into space. The expected answer would have been that space is a vacuum and has no smell. The real responses given were descriptions of a metallic smell or again that of fried meat. It seems that NASA got into this complicated enquiry because they wanted to update the preparatory experiences astronauts received when training to fly into space. Weightlessness, G forces and the rest all formed part of pre-flight experiences and when returning crews described smells it was decided to incorporate that into the programme.

The question still remained of how to create these smells in a relatively naturally way. Surprisingly experts consulted were able to bottle these olfactory experiences. More surprising is the reason they are able to do this. It seems that the sense of smell depends less on the air going into your nose and more on the vibration of the molecules being sniffed. Thus smells can be created and changed by manipulating their movement and thus capturing the smells in a container - ready for use.