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Astronaut Chris Hadfield Reveals What Outer Space Smells Like

In space, no one can hear you scream. But the solar system isn't as impervious to the sense of smell, according to Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield, who says space smells like bad barbecue.

Of course, you can't stick your head out of a space station and take a sniff. But Hadfield says you can get a whiff of the solar system after a space walk because the smell clings to an astronaut's attire much like pot smoke.

"When you come in from a spacewalk, you're surrounded by the emptiness of space," Hadfield told Wired recently. "It's sort of like the opposite of air. There's nothing there at all. When you open up the hatch, you smell what is that lingering from a place that used to be exposed to space. But the smell in there is a little bit like that trace of a smell of gunpowder or burnt steak. To me, it's sort of like brimstone - like a witch has just been there. It's a cool, lingering trace of a smell."

But Hadfield thinks that smell might actually be caused by the objects in space rather than space itself.

"I think...the vacuum of space is actually pulling trace chemicals out of the walls of the ship. Little bits of stuff you never smell because normally there's air pressure holding them into the metal. They're slowly off-gassing those tiny little trace gases and trace particles that otherwise [would] never get into your nose....That's where [I think] the smell is coming from. Maybe it's not coming from space but space's effect on our ship."

But the only way to find out for sure might be to buy a space travel ticket from Elon Musk.

For more insights on outer space, check out the full Wired interview.


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