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What does space smell like?

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When astronauts return from spacewalks, they often describe unexpected scents similar to burnt steak and spent gunpowder. But why does outer space smell like torched things, and where does this odor come from?

To be clear, space is a near-perfect vacuum. While in space, astronauts protect themselves in spacecraft, spacesuits and space stations, “since direct exposure would, of course, kill them,” Ofek Birnholtz, an astrophysicist at Bar-Ilan University in Israel, told Live Science. As such, no one has directly smelled space “and lived to tell the tale,” he noted.



When astronauts return from spacewalks, they often describe unexpected scents similar to burnt steak and spent gunpowder. But why does outer space smell like torched things, and where does this odor come from?

To be clear, space is a near-perfect vacuum. While in space, astronauts protect themselves in spacecraft, spacesuits and space stations, “since direct exposure would, of course, kill them,” Ofek Birnholtz, an astrophysicist at Bar-Ilan University in Israel, told Live Science. As such, no one has directly smelled space “and lived to tell the tale,” he noted.

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