Posted by: captainhoneytruck | March 3, 2008

The Smell of Space

My God, it Tastes like Chicken!

My God, it Tastes like Chicken!

There are lots of us that spend our waking lives dreaming about skirting star-belts out beyond the reach of uncharted gaseous planetary systems, possibly looking for Cylons, possibly trying to go where no Man has gone before; possibly just out to claim a fat bounty of royalty checks on Jar-Jar Binks’ head.

For the most part, though, we all have one thing in common: dream as we might, our shoes are still stuck on sweet terra firma.

And yet there are those of us who endure the pain, humiliation, and wearing of oversized adult diapers that warrants the slim chance that you will actually be propelled by 2.5 tons of unstable fuel at your back in a specially modified tin can, straight into the fragile and unwelcoming vacuum of space.

Sound fun, yet?

We’ve ALL heard the rumors about the truth of space: things don’t actually blow up, lasers don’t go pew-pew, and Princess Leia is not an easy lay. It’s enough to almost picture it. The black, unending, vacuum of space.

But have you ever wondered what it smelled like?

Personally, I guess that question got lost somewhere in between contemplating the sheer awesomeness of piloting a fighter-class starship through the eye of a gracefully staged space battle and the realization that the only reason I was even watching the new Enterprise was not to study the acting chops of Scott Bakula but to fantasize (a la T’Pol) about whether Vulcans have the same kind of equipment down there and how they might “logically” employ it.

I never in all that time thought about how it might feel to pilot a convertible star ship, the space wind whipping through my seafoam locks, the scent of planets dying and stars being born on a cold crystal spring day in Galaxx 9. Perhaps, my imagination suffered a bit from my knowledge of reality.

But then again, it must smell like something, right?

Just like the truth that all women must fart, and all idols must die and all clowns on television are scary as shit, space must have a smell.

So you can imagine how delightful it was to come across this testament by ISS Science Officer Don Pettit about just what exactly the big black beyond has got cooking underneath all that vacuum-packing:

“Few people have experienced traveling into space. Even fewer have experienced the smell of space. Now this sounds strange, that a vacuum could have a smell and that a human being could live to smell. … At first 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. 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.”

Now if that isn’t something, Don.

I know I’ll never wash my arc welding torch again.

But that smell coming out of my garbage can? Please, Don, tell me that’s the spice mines of Arrakis…


  1. Welcome aboard, Captain Honey Truck! Thanks for the awesome post. Mmm… spice.

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