Kw-logo-smaller

NASA Sniffer

For some jobs it's up to dogs to smell danger. At NASA it's up to George Aldrich to put his nose to work and sniff out any problems. He's in charge of 25 people who have to smell everything that goes into space. George tells New Scientist Magazine that smells change in space and once you're up there you're stuck with them. He works in the New Mexico desert and smells everything from sneakers to adult diapers.

Why He's Gotta Smell It All

Things smell different in space because of the confined space and the heat. "Think of a new car," explains George. "If you parked it in normal weather with the window open, that new car smell would be there in the background. But if you parked it in the sun on a sweltering day with the windows up, then the smell would be pretty overpowering. You'd be speeding up the evaporation of the chemicals."

George smells anything that goes inside a space shuttle. Here are a list of some of the things he's smelled: paints, magic markers, socks, shaving cream, tennis shoes, deodorized and non-deodorized tampons, adult diapers, a guitar and the case and toy animals like Chuckie Bear and Barney. FYI - astronauts wear diapers when they are out doing space walks and other circumstances where they just might need one. "We rejected some mascara from Sally Ride. She was the first American female astronaut and we tested a lot of things for her," says George.

Smell... I Mean Sound Appealing?

Does this job smell... I mean sound appealing? George explains how he became a NASA sniffer. "I never really thought much about whether I had a good sense of smell. I started with NASA in the fire department when I was 18. I was young and healthy and they asked me to be on their Odor Panel. I've now done 744 'smell missions' over 100 more than anyone else," explains George.

To get the job he had to pass a special physical. "You can't have any allergies or respiratory problems and they frown on high blood pressure. NASA wants healthy test subjects and if you have a lot of allergies your nasal passages are already irritated and cannot be used. And then you have to be able to smell. We have what we call the "10-bottle test": seven of them have odors and three of them are blanks. We have to certify our noses every three months like this."

Being a professional sniffer might make a few people chuckle but the job is very important. "For all the money it takes to get the shuttle off the ground, it's pointless if they have to abort the mission because of an odor inside the capsule," says George. "It is even more important because of the space station. The shuttle will be regularly supplying the astronauts up there with fresh supplies and taking away all their waste. I wouldn't be doing it if I didn't think it was important."

So what does George's business card say? "I call myself a nasal-naut. I've got a picture of the shuttle with the solid rocket boosters and my daughter has drawn a little skunk. Right in the middle it says: "If something smells in the space programme I'll be there to get wind of it."

Related Stories:

 

4 Comments

latest videos

F993490097250

What Wouldn't You Smell?

  • Dirty diapers.
  • Moldy food.
  • My dad's armpits.
  • I would smell anything for money.

related stories

When the space shuttle Discovery lifted off last month, it was carrying a human guinea pig with t...
A Russian rocket has blasted off to the International Space Station with an American billionaire ...
New pictures from Mars have revealed that water was running freely on the red planet about one mi...

Dear Dish-It in the forums

-Gwen9--
-Gwen9-- posted in Friends:
"jordand08" wrote:Thank you.You're welcome. :)
reply 12 minutes
donteatcarrots
talk to the person you're closest too. yes, you said you don't get close with people, but there's probably one person who you speak to more often than others- talk to that person.
reply about 2 hours
donteatcarrots
donteatcarrots posted in Friends:
Don't worry too much- it's only your first relationship- but I'd sit down with him at one point, and discuss what makes you uncomfortable, eg; if you know what I mean...
reply about 2 hours
donteatcarrots
donteatcarrots posted in Friends:
Probably sound a little stereotypical, but the majority of boys don't really act like that... Ask him :p
reply about 2 hours
kittenkid
First: WHATEVER YOU DO, DON'T KILL YOUSELF! When you get past this you'll be glad. Well, this is just my opinion, but I think you should first find someone, anyone, even if you don't trust them, if there're your parents talk to them about it. I bet a bunch of people have already told you this but there're right. Before you walk up to them, write down what you're going to say and then think of a few questions they might ask and write down the answers to them. Remember to tell them that it might take you a minute to think of an answer. Before you answer, think of the exact words you will say  before you say anything, and think in your mind about it. Think about wether it is a lie or not before you say it. If it gets out of you mouth before you realize it is a lie, don't be afraid to say so and just say the truth. Also, just try to find something you like to do that will take your mind off everything. If you really can't think of anything, try just practicing saying your feelings to yourself, or a pillow or something.  Hope this helps!
reply about 4 hours

play online games