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Brit chemist conjures smell of outer space

Fried steak and hot metal

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NASA has commissioned a British chemist to recreate the fragrance of outer space - variously described by astronauts as resembling "fried steak, hot metal and even welding a motorbike", the Daily Mail reports.

Steven Pearce of Omega Ingredients has taken to the lab in order to "help astronauts prepare for the conditions they will encounter in space". He explained: "I did some work for an art exhibition in July, which was based entirely on smell and one of the things I created was the smell of the inside of the Mir space station. Nasa heard about it and contacted me to see if I could help them recreate the smell of space to help their astronauts."

He continued: "The suggestion to us has been that it's about creating realism for their training, so they train the astronauts in their suits by putting them in big water tanks to simulate the loss of gravity and so it's just about making sure the whole thing is a realistic training exercise."

Helpfully for Pearce, NASA has been able to give some pointers as to how he should go about brewing up his parfum cosmique: "We have a few clues as to what space smells like. First of all, there were interviews with astronauts that we were given, when they had been outside and then returned to the space station and were de-suiting and taking off their helmets, they all reported quite particular odours. For them, what comes across is a smell of fried steak, hot metal and even welding a motorbike."

The project - which should be done and dusted by the end of the year - has proved technically challenging. Pearce admitted: "We have already produced the smell of fried steak, but hot metal is proving more difficult. We think it's a high-energy vibration in the molecule and that's what we're trying to add to it now." ®

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