Ever want to smell like an astronaut? Now you can!
- After years of trying, a group has produced the smell of outer space in a perfume.
- Astronauts have described the smell of space as similar to "ozone," "gunpowder," and "fried steak."
- Exactly what causes the scent is still debated.
Have you ever watched a sci-fi film and thought, "I wonder what everything smells like in this scene?"
If that sounds like you, then you're in luck. A Kickstarter campaign is raising funds to produce a perfume that smells like outer space. Now you can go about your day smelling like the inside of the Lunar Lander, Millennium Falcon, or Discovery One.
In Space, nobody can figure out what that smell is.
NASA has been concerned about what space smells like for years, primarily to reduce the surprise to astronauts who go up for the first time. According to Eau de Space's Kickstarter video, the space agency has been using a reproduction of the smell of space for decades.
In 2008, they asked Steve Pearce, a chemist who founded Omega Ingredients, to help them create the smell for an exhibition, presumably a more difficult task than giving new astronauts a spritz. Now, thanks to what they dub "sheer determination, grit, a lot of luck, and a couple of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests," the team behind the Kickstarter hopes to bring the scent to the public.
Descriptions of what it smells like are all over the place, and include raspberries, rum, "spent gunpowder," hot metal, fried steak, and "ozone."
For those wondering when you'd get a chance to notice the smell with a helmet on, as is required for spacewalks or moonwalks, the scent follows astronauts as they return from spacewalks. According to a researcher who spoke to The Atlantic, the odor is created by "high-energy vibrations in particles brought back inside which mix with the air."
As to why it smells like the various things mentioned above, the jury is still out. One suggestion is that at least some of the particles are hydrocarbons, which can also be found in things like tobacco smoke and car exhaust here on Earth. NASA argues that at least some of the smell is caused by oxidation of these particles, whatever they may be, as they enter the oxygen-rich environment of the spacecraft.
The plan is for the fragrance to be used primarily as an educational tool, sparking conversations about outer space in the classroom. To this end, each purchase includes a one bottle donation to a K-12 school. According to Engadget, there are currently no plans to mass-produce the fragrance after the Kickstarter ends.
If you want some, you might want to make that move before the countdown hits zero.
The Demo-2 mission represents a new era for American spaceflight.
- On Wednesday afternoon, SpaceX is set to become the first private company to launch humans into orbit.
- The company's Crew Dragon, launched by the Falcon 9 rocket, is scheduled to take two NASA astronauts to the International Space Station.
- Neil deGrasse Tyson will host the American Museum of Natural History's live-stream coverage of the launch.
On Wednesday afternoon, a SpaceX rocket is set to launch two NASA astronauts into space on a mission to the International Space Station. If successful, it'll be the first time a private company has put humans into orbit, and the first time astronauts have launched from American soil since NASA's Space Shuttle program ended in 2011.
At 4:33 p.m E.T., SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket is set to take off from the company's Launch Complex 39A site in Cape Canaveral, Florida. About 90 minutes before launch, NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley will walk across a walkway 230 feet above the ground and climb into Crew Dragon — the SpaceX capsule that sits atop the Falcon 9 rocket.
Hurley (R) and Behnken (L)
Photo by Bill Ingalls / NASA
It won't be the Crew Dragon's first mission. Last year, SpaceX successfully sent a Crew Dragon carrying only cargo to the International Space Station. But the company has also suffered setbacks with the capsule, including thruster and parachute complications, and a 2019 explosion that occurred during testing.
If successful, Falcon 9 will launch the Dragon capsule into low Earth orbit 12 minutes after takeoff. The rocket will then begin a controlled descent to its landing site on a drone ship in the Atlantic Ocean. Hurley and Behnken will manually fly Crew Dragon toward the ISS.
When they approach the station, Crew Dragon's autonomous docking system will take over, and the capsule will connect to the station at 11:29 a.m. on Thursday. The NASA astronauts will then board the ISS, where they'll likely remain for several months. (NASA has yet to confirm the details of the return mission.)
Walkway to SpaceX's Crew Dragon atop the Falcon 9 rocket
In addition to being a milestone for private spaceflight, Wednesday's mission — called Demo-2 — is also the culmination of NASA's Commercial Crew Program. Started in 2010, the federally funded program aims to pair NASA with private companies — like SpaceX and Boeing — to transport astronauts to and from the ISS. The mission also represents the end of an era in which the U.S. has relied on Russia to transport American astronauts to the ISS.
"This is a unique opportunity to bring all of America together in one moment in time and say, look at how bright the future is," Jim Bridenstine, NASA's administrator, said at a news conference on Tuesday.
Here's where you can live-stream the historic launch:
American Museum of Natural History
The American Museum of Natural History will begin streaming around 11 a.m. E.T. The live-stream event will begin with curator Ruth Angus examining "the awe-inspiring leap from imagination to scientific achievement in space exploration." At 1 p.m., the museum's Director of Astrovisualization Carter Emmart and astrophysicist Jackie Faherty will take viewers on a virtual field trip to the ISS. Around 4 p.m., Hayden Planetarium Director Neil deGrasse Tyson will join Faherty and museum curator Michael Shara to provide live commentary on the launch.
NASA's live-streaming channel will begin covering the launch Wednesday at 12 p.m. E.T. The agency will provide live commentary, and will also show the astronauts joining the crew of the ISS after the capsule docks with the station.
SpaceX's YouTube channel will also live-stream the launch, though the link is not yet available. We'll update it as it comes online.
UPDATE: The SpaceX link is now active and the live-stream is scheduled to begin at 12:15 p.m.
- NASA proposes an updated treaty for peaceful cooperation in space.
- The Artemis Accords aim to address potential off-planet conflicts before they happen, modernizing previous agreements.
- The proposal was prompted by the U.S. effort to return to the Moon, India's attempts to establish a presence there, and China's current Chang'e-4 mission.
We've really just taken baby steps into space, and already our off-planet activity is making it look a bit like the Wild West up there. It's not just government-sponsored science orbiting the planet, but also craft launched by private space entrepreneurs looking to score major paydays by being the first ones in. Look up at the right time of the evening to see a glittering wagon train of Starlink satellites traversing the night skies just because Elon Musk says so. Competition is already heating up between nations and industries for presumed space resources.
NASA hopes this isn't how it has to be, or how it will be, if governments and industry just hit the pause button long enough to think things through. In a bid to get a sensible conversation started, the U.S. space agency has just proposed a comprehensive treaty for Earthlings in space: The Artemis Accords. It is designed as an expansion and supplement to the Outer Space Treaty of 1967.
How far the Accords get depends on the wisdom of its proposed signatories, of course. Humanity — Remember us? Big fans of greed, competition, and self-destructive behavior? — has a not-great track record when it comes to doing the smart thing, but the Artemis Accords are a good start.
The Artemis Accords
NASA describes the Accords as "Principles for a Safe, Peaceful, and Prosperous Future." The anticipated American return to the moon by 2024 serves as the reason to begin addressing the peaceful use of space at this moment. China's Chang'e-4 mission is there now, and India plans another attempt at a lunar landing of its Chandrayaan-3 mission.
The idea is for Artemis to be the foundation of a voluntary partnership between relevant entities in establishing a "sustainable and robust" presence on the Moon, and reducing human conflict in space going forward.
"With numerous countries and private sector players conducting missions and operations in cislunar space, it's critical to establish a common set of principles to govern the civil exploration and use of outer space. International space agencies that join NASA in the Artemis program will do so by executing bilateral Artemis Accords agreements, which will describe a shared vision for principles, grounded in the Outer Space Treaty of 1967, to create a safe and transparent environment which facilitates exploration, science, and commercial activities for all of humanity to enjoy."
The Artemis Accords are divided into 10 sections:
Image source: NASA
NASA considers the core of the Artemis program to be adherence to the principles laid out in the Outer Space Treaty of 1967 that commits signatories to the use of space for peaceful purposes and to foster cooperation.
The earlier document doesn't allow signing nations to:
- Place in orbit around the Earth or other celestial bodies any nuclear weapons or objects carrying WMD.
- Install WMD on celestial bodies or station WMD in outer space in any other manner.
- Establish military bases or installations, test "any type of weapons," or conduct military exercises on the moon and other celestial bodies.
Image source: Gregg Newton/Getty Images
Artemis requires partners to be open about their policies, plans, and activities in space.
On Earth, we can't even agree of screwheads. Seen here: slot screwhead, Philips screwhead, Robertson screwhead, hexagonal screwhead
Image source: Big Think
NASA is calling in Artemis for the development of open international standards that would allow interoperability between partners' hardware. Common standards allow for an easier exchange of data between devices, simpler connectivity and repair, and reduces the need for each partner to devise its own method of achieving shared tasks.
Image source: OgnjenO/Shutterstock/Big Think
Artemis builds upon the 1968 Agreement on the Rescue of Astronauts, the Return of Astronauts, and the Return of Objects Launched into Outer Space. Partners must commit to making every reasonable effort to aid astronauts in distress.
Registration of Space Objects
In order to keep everyones' craft out of each others' way, and to help ensure the safety of everyone and everything up there, Artemis requires signers to register their space objects. The U.N estimates that about 87 percent of space objects are currently registered.
Release of Scientific Data
Image source: NASA
Artemis requires signatories to openly share their scientific findings for the benefit of humanity as a whole. NASA already does this.
Image source: NASA
As off-planet historical sites add up — the U.S. moon landing site is one — Artemis partners agree to protect such locations for their shared historical value.
Image source: M-SUR/Shutterstock
This requirement may turn out to be contentious given the potentially profits involved: An agreement to share access to resources in accordance with Articles II, VI, and XI of the Outer Space Treaty.
Deconfliction of Activities
Image source: AleksandrMorrisovich/Shutterstock/Big Think
Artemis partners must agree to afford other nations "due regard," and participate in notification and coordination with other parities to avoid harmful interference with each others' activities.
Orbital Debris and Spacecraft Disposal
Artemis partners agree to collectively plan for the reentry of orbital debris and to develop safe systems for the disposal of craft no longer in service.
You can download a [copy of the Artemis Accords here].
Colonel Chris Hadfield talks to us about the formalities that astronauts have to use, and how it can help us here on earth.
- How do you not just listen but be a good listener?
- You need to focus on why someone is saying what they do.
- The formalized communication of NASA is a microcosm of a regular conversation between any two people.
Colonel Chris Hadfield knows that excellent communication is of utmost importance when you're an astronaut floating in space, and half of good communication is good listening.
Trash on earth is pretty bad. But space trash is at a whole other level.
Trash on earth is pretty bad. But space trash is at a whole other level. Imagine how much damage just a single screw can make when it's hurtling right at you at 17,500mph. You can follow Michelle Thaller on Twitter at @mlthaller.