Ariel Waldman, the author of What’s It Like in Space? Stories from Astronauts Who’ve Been There, is a member of NASA’s Innovative Advanced Concepts program, which nurtures radical, sci-fi-esque ideas to enhance and transform future space missions. She also contributed to a congressionally-requested National Academy of Sciences study on the future of human spaceflight, and is the global director of Science Hack Day, a 24-hour worldwide event to get people excited about science. We exchanged emails about what space smells like, which of Saturn’s moons might be home to the most interesting life, and why we explore space at all. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.
What does space smell like?
Burnt almond cookies. Seriously! At least, that was what one astronaut reported after sniffing the inside of an air lock. In fact, no one can quite agree on what space smells like. Others have said everything from welding fumes to “wet clothes after rolling in snow.”