Smelling outer space: “intimidating”

ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst has taken over the role of International Space Station commander from NASA astronaut Drew Feustel earlier today. This is a perfect opportunity to highlight his recent interview with Jan Böhmermann on how outer space smells.

When the German show host Jan Böhmermann interviewed the German astronaut Alexander Gerst in April 2018 the smell of outer space served as an opening leitmotif.

Have a look:

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It may not be a big surprise that Alexander Gerst mentions a few olfactory notes. Some of them are the usual suspects (“e.g. metallic). Yet, the walnut note clearly irritates the show host. Finally, it is surprising how Gerst describes the smell as “intimidating” (“einschüternd”). This is the point I would like to hear more about. What is possibly intimidating about this smell? All in all, the short dialogue is fascinating (min. 0.00-ca.03:55).

What space smells like…. this question has triggered numerous debates and phantasies. It served as an inspiration for an artistic reseach project by Hagen Betzwieser & Sue Corke on the smell of the moon.  Moreover, the portrait of NASA’s staff sniffer remains remarkable also with respect to sensory and aesthetic work practices.

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