Call it the scent of space.
There’s a lingering “peculiar smell” aboard the International Space Station (ISS) that takes a few days to get used to, according to European astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti.
“When I arrived here a few months ago for my second flight, I immediately smelled a very special smell that instantly brought me back to the memories and sensations of smells from my first flight”, Cristoforetti shared on TikTok (opens in a new tab) Monday (July 25). “But within a few days I got used to it, and now I can’t feel it.”
Related: Astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti makes history with the 1st TikTok from the International Space Station
Cristoforetti didn’t elaborate on the smell of the ISS, though she did note that the space station’s capable filters remove most odors. (Cristoforetti completed his first spacewalk on July 21, days before the video was released.)
Other astronauts have commented that space smells like gunpowder or ozone, particularly because atomic oxygen is believed to cling to space suits in a vacuum.
Cristoforetti also gave aspiring ISS visitors an overview of smelly places to avoid on the space station. In June, the orbital lab’s Expedition 67 crew packed trash into a Northrop Grumman Cygnus freighter about to depart the ISS for a fiery reentry. “Of course it can be smelly,” she said of the garbage-filled spacecraft.
Other undesirable aromas emanate from the toilets of the space station. Toilets are designed to recycle urine into drinking water; there is always a remnant after this process is complete, however. The system evaporates any remaining urine, and the exhaust can be smelly “despite that big filter,” Cristoforetti said.
But the European Space Agency astronaut has reassured his 600,000 TikTok followers that, aside from those awkward areas, the ISS is free of dreaded scents. “Other than that, the space station smells great,” she said.