NASA’s “Eau de Space” Fragrance Recreates the Smell of Outer Space
What do gun powder, seared steak, raspberries, and rum have in common? Hint: It’s not what’s for dinner. According to the chemist Steve Pearce, of Omega Ingredients, the makers of a new “Eau de Space” fragrance, the strange cocktail of earthly scents comes particularly close to approximating the otherworldly smell of outer space—and it’s got the NASA chops to prove it. NASA first developed a version of the peculiar aroma decades ago during the Space Race, using the scent as a training simulation tool to prepare astronauts before sending them into orbit. In 2008, NASA contracted Pearce to recreate the scent, based on various accounts from astronauts, to approximate the interior smell of the Mir Space Station, for an exhibition.
Astronauts have long conveyed their olfactory impressions of space, at turns describing the scent as bitter, smoky, and burned, as well as strangely sulfurous, slightly metallic, and even a bit like burnt cookies. “To me, it’s sort of like brimstone—as if a witch has just been there,” retired astronaut Chris Hadfield told Wired, musing, “Maybe it’s not even coming from space. Maybe it’s just coming from space’s effect on our ship.” A recently launched Kickstarter campaign to bring “Eau de Space” to market, on through Aug. 17, has already raised half a million dollars from backers, and pledges to donate a bottle to a K-12 STEM program for every bottle sold. Until space travel becomes a possibility for us Earth-bound plebs, the strange fragrance, which promises to be “the next best thing to being there,” might just provide the momentary escape we could all use right now.