Perfumer reproduces the smell of the Moon: What does it smell like?

Every day we are surrounded by a variety of aromas: morning coffee with a fragrant croissant, spring color outside the window or just the pleasant perfume of a colleague in the office. If you have felt any of the above mentioned today, then consider yourself lucky, because astronauts on the ISS have to smell a real stink at this time. But have you ever wondered what the Moon smells like?

Moon. Photo: Unsplash

In an article for the journal Nature, the French aroma sculptor and scientific consultant Michael Moisseeff said that he reproduced the smell of our natural moon based on the stories of the first astronauts who set foot on its surface half a century ago. 

What is the Moon’s smell like?

“The Moon smells like spent gunpowder. This is exactly the smell Buzz Aldrin felt when he took off his helmet in the lunar module on the Moon in 1969, right after he left its surface,” Moisseeff wrote. 

Michael Moisseeff is a consultant at the National Polytechnic Institute of Toulouse, France, and a “aroma sculptor” near Toulouse. Authorship: Georges Gobet

Aldrin talked about the peculiarity of the lunar smell in his book Magnificent Desolation: The Long Journey Home from the Moon (2009). The second astronaut on the Moon recalled that when he and Neil Armstrong returned to their lander, they, completely covered with lunar dust, immediately felt “an acrid metallic smell, somewhat similar to gunpowder or the smell in the air after a firecracker explosion”.

Later in an interview with Space in 2015, Aldrin explained his description of the Moon’s fragrance. He described it as smelling like “burning coal or ashes in a fireplace, especially when you sprinkled some water on it”. 

Memories of an Apollo 17 astronaut

Aldrin was not the only Apollo astronaut who commented on the smell of lunar regolith, similar to gunpowder. “In the lunar module, we instantly felt the smell of spent gunpowder with a metallic taste. It is this gunpowder aroma that has stuck in our memory more than other similar smells,” recalled Apollo 17 astronaut Garrison Schmitt.

Unless space flight technology quickly becomes cheaper and more affordable over the next few decades, most of us won’t ever be able to smell the Moon. But, fortunately, we can get the opportunity to feel an imitation of the smell in Toulouse, France.

Earlier we reported on what the Churyumov–Gerasimenko comet smelled like.

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