Geek has the story on one man’s extremely strange but very important job working for NASA.
Considering NASA has an employee whose job it is to smell the universe, you might think that, once again, Futurama predicted the real-life future. However, George Aldrich has been employed as NASA’s staff sniffer for 40 years, long before Professor Farnsworth paired a lens and stench coil to create his Smell-O-Scope. Whereas the Smell-O-Scope was generally used to smell things across the universe, Aldrich’s job is to smell anything and everything, because, basically, no one will know if that’s important unless someone does it.
He works at NASA’s White Sands Test Facility, and is the guy who performs toxicity and odor tests on any object that goes up into space with astronauts. While it may sound silly at first, Aldrich makes sure objects that give off noxious odors don’t make it into space, as being trapped in a small box in space makes it difficult to escape a cloud of harmful odors — poisonous or otherwise.
The manager of NASA’s nasal lab, Susana Harper, explains that on Earth, if a noxious odor makes it into the air, it simply airs out. In space, though, there isn’t any extra air to help dilute the odors. So, essentially, it’s Aldrich’s job to make sure NASA doesn’t send harmful — or even new — odors up into space, because once they’re there, they’re stuck there.