Fragrance Maker to Send People
to Space, Where the Smell Is Odd
Astronauts have struggled to describe the strange but unmistakable scent of space. ‘Seared steak,’ as one put it. No, ‘burnt gunpowder,’ said another. So odd it is, that NASA has commissioned a chemist to develop something similar, so rookies can get acquainted with it.
The out of this world odor can’t be covered up by any cologne. But AXE, the maker of a popular deodorant, is promoting the launching of its new fragrance by offering 22 lucky buyers the chance to fly aboard Lynx, a suborbital plane being readied to take tourists aloft.
As space is about to become the novelty du jour for those bored with the signs on the ground (and with deep pockets to afford taking off), we may also see a new era of space traveling being offered to common folk, via lottery. Just like it was done with the Titanic and we don’t mean to sound ominous here.
Until governments see a reason to invest heavily in space exploration, manned trips to outer space are about to get very rare indeed, and almost never for scientific purposes only. That could change tomorrow, of course, if there were suddenly the prospect of developing a super-duper weapon out there.
Funding wouldn’t be short for that, we’re sure. For all the great things you’ve read here, and our personal enthusiasm about the Space Age, it was never a question why it was being pursued, and what was the shadow program going along for the ride. We just wouldn’t let that take anything away from its overall greatness.
That era, much to our chagrin, has come to a close, apparently. Or at least has slowed down to an almost grinding halt. For all the hoopla about traveling to Mars or to land a man on an asteroid, realistically we don’t see how that will happen without some very expensive research to back it up.
But despite power, time, lethal radiation, acute depression, heavy bone loss, and a series of challenges our science is not quite up to tackle just yet, in such a limited budget, we know we’ll be back up there someday. We’ll just have to vicariously enjoy others going up, ever so briefly, in the meantime.
THE ACRID SMELL OF ALIEN WORLDS
Since its inception, and perhaps because there were a lot more at stake, the question about how does space smell never really popped up for astrophysicists involved in the so-called space race. It was simply not a priority. Besides, astronauts rarely took their helmets off when flying, so it really was a moot point.
But the completion of the International Space Station changed that. It allowed astronauts to wake up and literally spell, if not the coffee, then something strange. Or funny. Certainly new. The initial assessment was that the scent stemmed from atomic oxygen that clings to the spacesuit fabric. And it hits you when you take it off.
Because the sense of smell is the one that triggers strong emotions and can easily ignite fear and other distracting feelings, upon hearing the astronauts, NASA decided that it was time to do something about it. It asked Steve Pearce, a chemist at Omega Ingredients and Maverick Innovations, to reproduce and bottle the smell of outer space.
The idea is to make space crews perfectly at easy with the prospect of smelling something weird in space, and lose, say, a $20 million dollar piece of equipment, just for being startled by it. As he tells Discovery’s Dave Mosher, Pearce had previously recreated the smell of the Soviet-era Mir space station.
His team designs smells that mimic the space odor, which in the case of the Mir, was the combination of the bodies with the scientific equipment on board. Such combos can produce surprising, and toxic, smells, such as acetone and acetaldehyde. By recreating them, he produced something similarly ‘unpleasant without making it dangerous.’
BY A COLOGNE, GET A FREE SPACE TRIP
There are already a quite big contingent of the wealthy and the famous jockeying for one of the many space planes being currently developed. The prices for this kind of outing are literally skyrocketing, so it’s obvious that an even more restrict minority of people will get the chance to frolic (and to throw up?) for a few minutes in zero gravity.
With all this talk about scents and smells and odors, it had to be a perfume maker, AXE, to come up with a clever, if not too generous idea: buy our product, and get a chance to be one with those who can afford flying to space. Not together with them, of course. But at least 22 people will be going, that is, as long as they buy the new Apollo fragrance and get the number right.
To boost the campaign, they hired living legend Buzz Aldrin as a spokesperson. And the man who dabble in so many fields since he came back from the moon as there were Apollo flights (including decking a conspiracy nut who lacked the proper respect toward him) gladly complied.
The lucky 22 will join the more than 200 potential passengers, who have already purchased tickets to fly on the Lynx, which is being developed by XCOR Aerospace. The craft will take off and land horizontally, like an airplane, and use rocket power to blast into space. Each will spend about an hour at 64 miles of altitude, alone with the pilot; the Lynx seats only two.
The company, following the example of Richard Branson’s Virgin and others, is hoping to cash in the expected fad of suborbital flights that will supposedly make up for the heroic flights of the Apollo and Space Shuttle program of yesteryear. But if you’d ask us, we don’t think such fever will last that long.
And, being a commercial enterprise, they’ll never mention the 800-light-year comet in the room: the immense risk that a still experimental technology may pose. One single disaster and, well, again we’re being doomed and gloomy here. Let’s just hope you make it up there, since we know you’ve been making it everywhere. And please sends us a live-stream Tweet from space, would you? Bon voyage.
* Are We There Yet?
* Aroma Holiday