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What does space smell like?

Haben Sie sich schon einmal gefragt, wie es im Weltraum wohl riecht? Wir verraten es Ihnen in diesem Auszug aus der Januar-Ausgabe der Read On! Anschließend stellen wir Ihnen noch einige Redewendungen rund um das Weltall vor und Sie können die neu gelernten Vokabeln direkt in einer kleinen Übung anwenden! ☆ 

There are different theories about where the smell of space comes from, but astronauts all describe it as metallic and slightly burnt.

By Franziska Lange

Who doesn’t enjoy looking up into the night sky gazing at the stars and wondering what is out there in this vast universe? It’s all rather romantic. But there is something about our universe which is less than dreamy — its smell: metallic and slightly burnt, astronauts say.

Of course astronauts can only smell space indirectly. If they got a straight sniff, they would not live to tell the tale: space is a vacuum, so they would suffocate if they inhaled the air up there. But they can smell it on their spacesuits when they return to the spacecraft after a spacewalk. Astronauts have described the smell of space as metallic, burnt and slightly bitter. They have compared it to burning metal, seared steak and burnt almond cookies. But where does this smell come from?

One theory is that the smell is caused by a chemical reaction when oxygen with different numbers of atoms come into contact with each other. (…) So what astronauts smell might be the product of that chemical reaction.

But there is also a theory about the smell which may appeal to the romantics among us. That one says the smell of space is the aroma of dying stars. (…)


0—1 space Weltraum — to smell riechen — smell Geruch — slightly etwas — to burn (ver)brennen — to gaze at s.th. etw. anblicken — to wonder sich fragen — vast weit — rather ziemlich

2 straight direkt — sniff Atemzug — to live to tell the tale (fig) aus etw. lebend herauskommen (t. Geschichte) — to suffocate ersticken — to inhale einatmen — spacecraft Raumschiff — to compare to vergleichen mit — seared scharf angebraten — almond Mandel-

3—4 to cause hervorrufen — oxygen Sauerstoff — to appeal to s.o. jdm. gefallen

Language corner: Space idioms

These idioms all use words that have to do with astronomy.

☆ A person who is spaced out is not paying attention to what is presently going on.

☆ When you say something is not rocket science you mean it isn’t hard to understand.

☆ Failure to launch is used to describe a young person who finds it hard to transition to adulthood.

☆ A rising star is someone who is promising.

☆ To shoot for the stars is to be ambitious.



idiom Redewendung — to be spaced out abgelenkt sein — to pay attention aufmerksam sein — presently gerade — s.th. is not rocket science etw. ist kein Hexenwerk (r. Rakete) — failure to launch missglückter Start — to transition to adulthood erwachsen werden — rising star aufsteigender Stern — promising vielversprechend — to shoot for the Stars (fig) nach den Sternen greifen — ambitious ehrgeizig

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