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  • July 2012
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Outer Space, Smell’ya Later

Charred flesh, scorched metal, raspberries, gunpowder, rum, welding fumes…

Over the course of Owning the Night these past few weeks, have you found yourself at all pointing towards the starry sky (à la those anonymous yet colorful silhouettes) faintly whispering “Oh, outer space! How do you smell?”   -No? That’s okay, I haven’t either (honestly, I swear).

According to the people who know (aka astronauts who’ve been) space has a surprisingly distinct stench, a burning/sulfurous odor that many have consistently described as being akin to a mixture of charred flesh, scorched metal, gunpowder, and/or welding fumes.  Now you might be thinking… How can they smell anything with those big, fishbowl-esque spacesuit helmets on?  Well, this pungency that’s been attributed to outer space is the smell that lingers on said spacesuits once the astronauts are back within the spaceship.

Get me outta here! It stinks!

So… how does all this fit into our overall quest for intergalactic domination (and what’s up with the raspberries and rum)?  Well, NASA has been working with a scent chemist named Steve Pearce to recreate the stink of space in order to make their training exercises more realistic.  This Mr. Pearce seems pretty qualified for the job too.  He once recreated the smell of the Mir space station; an exquisite fragrance that he himself described as “sweaty feet and stale body odor” mixed with “nail polish remover and gasoline.”  Yum.

As for the rum and raspberries, they get lumped in with the overall burning/sulfurous odor described by astronauts largely because of the presence of ethyl formate, an organic compound that was recently found chilling in a dust cloud near the center of our galaxy.  Ethyl formate, itself, smells a lot like rum; however, it’s also responsible for the flavorful aroma of raspberries.

Stuff burning.  Hot metal.  Gunpowder.  Rum.  Johnny Depp would fit right in.

More fun with smell and the final frontier:


Jon : CLP Carrick

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