What is the scent of space?

For those who love the great mysteries of the Universe, NASA has created, through the descriptions of astronauts who have been there, the original scent of space.

"I can't think of anything more exciting than going out there and being among the stars" - It's a phrase that well-known entrepreneur Elon Musk likes to repeat. We are not yet at the levels of spaceships and intergalactic travel narrated by science fiction novels and movies, and the 2000s brought more of an implementation in the technology and telecommunications sector than in the space sector.

And yet, as recent space missions show, the phenomenon of interplanetary tourism and space travel, clearly still in its infancy, is beginning to take hold, financed by private individuals and corporations with millions of dollars and projects of well-known companies, such as Jeff Bezos' (Amazon founder) Blue Origin and Elon Musk's SpaceX.

Yes, because everyone here on Earth dreams of experiencing space travel, savoring infinity with our five human senses. For those who have not yet left on a space probe, for dreamers and lovers of the great mysteries of the Universe, NASA has thought of recreating, through the accounts of those who have been there, the true and authentic scent of space.

What does space smell like?

When you think of the adventure of a space journey, there are many things to fantasize about to imagine the feeling you can experience beyond the Earth. Perhaps the smell of space is not the first thing that comes to mind. Yet our sense of smell allows us to perceive a particular aroma so completely that it penetrates us, storing it as an indelible memory in our minds.

It is no coincidence that most astronauts returning from various spacewalks constantly talk about the extraordinary smell of space. A smell that continues to accompany their lives on Earth, helping the mind to recreate the magnificent experience they have lived.

Apparently, astronauts cannot smell it while they are there, because they are "distracted" by the inside of their spacesuits that only smell like plastic. But when they return to the space station and take off their helmets, they detect a strong and distinctive smell coming from the last galactic frontier. A smell that adheres all around their equipment: suit, helmet, gloves and various tools. And that's when they can really reconstruct the scent of space, which would be a "mix of steak, raspberries and rum."

An acrid aroma of seared steak, hot metal and welding fumes. Some astronauts also spoke of a peculiar, slightly sour, sulfurous smell of ozone. A smoky smell that still lingers in the universe, produced by the immense amount of energy given off by the Big Bang nearly 14 billion years ago. A bitter, smoky, pungent fragrance with sweetish undertones, "a bit like a gun just after a gunshot," due to the preponderant presence of nitrogen.

NASA and the scent of space

The scent of space was described in 2003 by NASA astronaut Don Pettit, returning from a mission, as "a pleasant metallic and sweet sensation." According to Pettit, it's difficult to describe this smell, as it's definitely not like telling about the sensations a new food provides to the palate and being understood, like saying 'it tastes like chicken'. "It reminded me of my college summers working long hours with an arc welding flashlight repairing heavy equipment for a small group of loggers. Welding fumes with a sweet aroma. That's what space smells like."

In 2008, NASA came up with the idea of recreating the smell of space on Earth, initially just for astronaut training purposes and to create as realistic an environment as possible in exercises before launches into orbit. A help to optimize also the experiential part of the space travel.

According to Steven Pearce, chemist chosen by NASA for the Eau de Space project and CEO of Omega Ingredients (a company qualified in the production of flavors and natural ingredients of high quality for the food and beverage industry), the metallic aspect of the perfume could derive from the vibrations of the high energy ions.

In recent years, what began as an experimental project only for "insiders", is also moving towards industrial production. The Eau de Space project has started to raise a lot of funding on Kickstarter, a U.S. crowdfunding platform that provides funding for various creative projects.

The space scent has been on sale on the platform for a limited time at $29 per bottle. Clearly, the oh-so-special nuance is not meant to be sprayed on the body like perfume shops' fragrances, but it is an heirloom to have a piece of space around us with us, savoring the scent of space and traveling with the mind imagining being there.