Space smells awful or awesome, depending where you're floating

There's nothing quite like the smell of space in the morning... until you realize there's no real bacon to go with the scent of it.

Eric Mack Contributing Editor
Eric Mack has been a CNET contributor since 2011. Eric and his family live 100% energy and water independent on his off-grid compound in the New Mexico desert. Eric uses his passion for writing about energy, renewables, science and climate to bring educational content to life on topics around the solar panel and deregulated energy industries. Eric helps consumers by demystifying solar, battery, renewable energy, energy choice concepts, and also reviews solar installers. Previously, Eric covered space, science, climate change and all things futuristic. His encrypted email for tips is ericcmack@protonmail.com.
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Eric Mack
2 min read

Not all space smells would make astronauts gag... NASA

We've yet to make contact with E.T., but human space exploration has given us at least a few surprising revelations, like the fact that the smells of space range from delicious to downright nasty.

Last year, the Rosetta mission taught us that the perfume of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko is a wretch-inducing bouquet of ammonia, hydrogen sulphide and other nasty gases that would smell like an unholy merger of an outhouse and rotten eggs.

But as the video below from Chemical & Engineering News sums up with an unabashedly geeky flair, not every aroma in space will destroy your appetite. In fact, astronauts returning to the International Space Station after a spacewalk reported smelling bacon and other whiffs of meat. And Apollo astronauts reported a scent on the moon like gun powder. Other astronauts have also described space scents similar to a spent fireplace, welding or burning ozone.

Sounds to me like the vacuum of space is just like gathering around one massive campfire, which is sort of what the sun is, when you think about it.

So what's to keep astronauts in orbit from constantly craving a barbecue bacon cheeseburger? Fortunately, NASA has the means to keep the ISS smelling fresh, although it did take a few hours to filter out the fishy smell of seafood gumbo once.

What's being missed here is the obvious opportunity for NASA to save a little cash on shipping breakfast meats to space. If you actually fried up some bacon in the already seared-pork-scented vacuum of space, you might be able to trick astronauts' noses and palates into believing they got double the serving of bacon. Let's keep this little secret just between you, me and the American taxpayers though, NASA. The astronauts don't need to know...