Although it might sound like another study worthy of an IgNobel award, the current research which tries to replicate the fried meat and molten metal smell of space could help astronauts get ready for outer space conditions.
The sense of smell relies on the brain's area specialized in chemical interpretation of the contact between molecules and the small smell receptors located in the nose. This is what Steven Pearce, a chemist and the managing director of Omega Ingredients, a fragrance and flavor solutions company, was asked by NASA to focus on in order to help the scientists create more accurate training conditions for space astronauts. Pearce explains how he got to work on this project two months ago, “I did some work for an art exhibition in July, which was based entirely on smell and one of the things I created was the smell of the inside of the Mir space station. NASA heard about it and contacted me to see if I could help them recreate the smell of space to help their astronauts”. He believes he and his team will be able to get the final results by the end of the year.
“We have a few clues as to what space smells like. First of all, there were interviews with astronauts that we were given, when they had been outside and then returned to the space station and were de-suiting and taking off their helmets, they all reported quite particular odors,” he says. “For them, what comes across is a smell of fried steak, hot metal and even welding a motorbike. The suggestion to us has been that it's about creating realism for their training, so they train the astronauts in their suits by putting them in big water tanks to simulate the loss of gravity and so it's just about making sure the whole thing is a realistic training exercise. We have already produced the smell of fried steak, but hot metal is proving more difficult. We think it's a high energy vibration in the molecule
and that's what we're trying to add to it now,” shared the chemist. Perhaps we will know more on the subject when the experiment is completed, if it proves successful.