The Space Shuttle Atlantis landed back at Cape Canaveral on Thursday at 5.57am, heralding the end of NASA’s 30 year shuttle programme.
It has been NASA’s longest running space flight programme and in the words of Commander Christopher Ferguson ‘After serving the world for over 30 years, the space shuttle has earned its place in history. And it’s come to a final stop.”
Only 12 people have walked on the Moon – all of them American, and so it is only through these handful of astronauts that we can glean any real information as to the atmospheric conditions up there. Apollo 17 astronaut, Gene Cernan gives us an insight to the mysterious smell of moondust. You might be wondering how he could smell the moons surface as they were fully covered in their lunar spacesuits, but the trouble with moondust is that it suffers from a terrible case of static cling (bit like my hair actually!). This I am informed is due to the solar winds constantly bombarding it with electrons. Therefore, after every moonwalk, although the astronauts did their best to remove the dust, it was trampled back inside the lander on their boots and also on their helmets and gloves.
Once the helmets and gloves were taken off, the astronauts could feel, taste and smell the moon. It apparently feels soft like snow but has an abrasive quality, and the smell is akin to burnt gunpowder. All the astronauts are in agreement with the smell, and are all very specific that it is like burnt gunpowder not the unfired variety. Curiously, back on Earth, moondust has no smell whatsoever. There are a few theories as to why this might be as follows…
The moon is akin to a 4 billion year old desert, incredibly dry. Once the moondust came into contact with the moist air inside the lunar module it began to give off odour in a similar way to the the smell that we get here as the first big splats of rain hit the pavement after a hot dry spell.
Another theory is that the the smell comes from the evaporation of gases caused by the solar winds once in contact with moist air.
There is yet another theory that oxygen when combined with the chemicals in the moondust could create oxidation which, although too slow for smoke or flames, could produce a burnt aroma.
So, if any of these theories apply then the samples brought back for study would already have been ‘pacified’, and any smelly chemical reactions therefore, would have ended long ago.
Nasa plans to send people back to the moon in 2018, and hopefully we will be able to discover more about the smell of the moon. In the meantime, whilst researching moon information I came across this recipe for your own home made moon oil….have fun
MAGIC MOON OIL
13 drops of sandalwood oil
9 drops of vanilla extract
3 drops of jasmine oil
1 drop of rose oil
Mix oils together prior to the next full moon and then place on a windowsill in a clear container overnight in the light of the moon. This captures the energy of the moon. Use to anoint yourself or in an oil burner when you feel that you need a burst of moon energy…and of course dont forget to let me know how you get on with all your newfound energy!