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What Does Space Smell Like?

Astronaut Reid Wiseman takes to Twitter with an olfactory report from space.

What Does Space Smell Like?
[Image: Flickr user Ciocci]

Add “wet clothing after rolling around in the snow” to the ways astronauts describe the smell of space.

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Although it’s a bit of a divergence from “seared steak,” “hot metal, “sulfur,” and “welding fumes”–all other ways space explorers have described the smell of the great unknown–it fits in with the general theme of: unpleasantly pungent.

Researches say the distinctive smells have to do with the arrangement of particles as they move from areas without gravity to the controlled environments of spacecrafts. The aromas are the result of “high-energy vibrations in particles brought back inside which mix with the air,” one researcher told The Atlantic.

Space also has an effect on astronauts’ sense of smell, making it easier to smell dank scents, as astronaut Chris Hadfield describes in this video:

At least space’s atmosphere doesn’t have any negative effects on the sense of sight:

About the author

Rebecca Greenfield is a former Fast Company staff writer. She was previously a staff writer at The Atlantic Wire, where she focused on technology news.

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