What does space smell like?
It’s strange to think that the near-vacuum of space could have a smell, and stranger still that humans—atmospheric creatures—can actually experience it. Astronauts have consistently reported the same strange odour after lengthy space walks, bringing it back in on their suits, helmets, gloves and tools. It’s bitter, smoky, metallic smell—like seared steak, hot metal and arc welding smoke all rolled into one. NASA have asked a chemist, Steve Pearce, to reproduce the smell to use during acclimatization training, mapping out the likely chemistry using natural materials to mimic the odor for accuracy. It’s believed that the smell is caused by high-energy vibrations in particles that mix with the air when brought inside. In the future, we might even recreate the smell of the moon, Mars, Mercury or any place in the universe, provided we have the right chemical information. In fact, we can even recreate the smell of the heart of the galaxy—astronomers searching for animo acids in Sagittarius B2, a vast dust cloud in the middle of the Milky Way, have reported that due to a substance called ethyl formate, it smells and tastes of raspberries and rum—much more pleasant than seared steak and metal.
The rover Opportunity captured a view into Endeavour crater as a low Sun cast a long shadow in this image, acquired back on March 9.
Endeavour is a large crater — 14 miles (22 km) wide, it’s about the same area as the city of Seattle. Opportunity arrived at its edge in August of 2011 after several years of driving across the Meridiani Plains.
Opportunity is currently the only operational manmade object on the surface of Mars… or any other planet besides Earth, for that matter. Its a distinction it will hold until the arrival of Mars Science Laboratory at Gale Crater this August.
From the NASA news release by JPL’s Guy Webster:
The scene is presented in false color to emphasize differences in materials such as dark dunes on the crater floor. This gives portions of the image an aqua tint.
Opportunity took most of the component images on March 9, 2012, while the solar-powered rover was spending several weeks at one location to preserve energy during the Martian winter. It has since resumed driving and is currently investigating a patch of windblown Martian dust near its winter haven.
Opportunity and its rover twin, Spirit, completed their three-month prime missions on Mars in April 2004. Both rovers continued for years of bonus, extended missions. Both have made important discoveries about wet environments on ancient Mars that may have been favorable for supporting microbial life. Spirit stopped communicating in 2010. Since landing in the Meridiani region of Mars in January 2004, Opportunity has driven 21.4 miles (34.4 kilometers).