Space Sights and Smells Surprise Rookie Astronauts

Space Sights and Smells Surprise Rookie Astronauts
Shuttle (red) and station (blue) crewmembers participate in a joint crew news conference while aboard the International Space Station on Sept. 4, 2009 during the STS-128 shuttle flight. (Image credit: NASA TV)

WASHINGTON- For rookie astronauts flying aboard the International Space Station, the foodis good, the rocket thrusters are loud and there?s an odd tang in the air -apparently from outer space.

?It?s avery, verydifferent environment than I expected,? Discovery shuttle pilot Kevin Ford,a first-time spaceflyer, said from orbit late Friday.

One of thingsFord wasn?t ready for is the weird smell.

?From the[spacewalks] there really is a distinct smell of space when they come back in,?Ford said from the station in a Friday night news conference. ?It?s like?something I haven?t ever smelled before, but I?ll neverforget it. You know how those things stick with you.?

In thepast, astronauts have described the smellof space as something akin to gunpowder or ozone.

The soundsof spaceflight have also been surprising, especially when Discovery fires up itslarge maneuvering thrusters, Ford said.

?It definitelygives the shuttle a kick and you just feel a little twang throughout the wholeorbiter when they?re firing to keep you in position,? he added.

Of the 13astronauts aboard the International Space Station and docked shuttle, nearly halfare taking their first trip to space. For some, it?s a short trip aboard theshuttle, which blastedoff last week with three rookies aboard.

Other first-timespaceflyers are on the station for the long haul. Some have already been therefor months, so the term ?rookie? barely applies.

?The foodis wonderful,? said rookie astronaut Nicole Stott, who arrived at the stationSunday on Discovery to begin a three-month stay. ?Of course we have a mix fromall the partners now.?

The result,she said, is a sort of orbitalsmorgasbord that includes food from the United States, Russia,Canada, Japan and Europe.

?I thinkyou can find something for everyone,? Stott said.

Discovery?sseven-astronaut crew is in the middle of a 13-day mission to deliver freshsupplies and new science gear to the space station. The astronauts ferriedStott to the outpost to replace another NASA astronaut who will come home onthe shuttle.

They alsodelivered a $5 million treadmill named after comedianStephen Colbert.

Even someof Discovery?s grizzled veterans were surprised by the life aboard the station,which is the $100 billion product of 16 different countries.

?It?sreally awesome to see all the work that?s been achieved up here since our lastflight,? said Discovery commander Rick Sturckow, who is making his fourth flightto the station. ?They?ve added a new solar array and some new modules. Thestation is something that all the international partners can be very proud offor their contributions.?

  • New Image Gallery - Shuttle Discovery's Midnight Launch
  • New Video - Meet the STS-128 Shuttle Astronauts
  • Video - Food in Space: An International Smorgasbord

SPACE.comis providing complete coverage of Discovery's STS-128 mission to theInternational Space Station with Managing Editor Tariq Malik and Staff WriterClara Moskowitz in New York. Clickhere for shuttle mission updates and a link to NASA TV.


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Tariq Malik

Tariq is the Editor-in-Chief of and joined the team in 2001, first as an intern and staff writer, and later as an editor. He covers human spaceflight, exploration and space science, as well as skywatching and entertainment. He became's Managing Editor in 2009 and Editor-in-Chief in 2019. Before joining, Tariq was a staff reporter for The Los Angeles Times covering education and city beats in La Habra, Fullerton and Huntington Beach. In October 2022, Tariq received the Harry Kolcum Award for excellence in space reporting from the National Space Club Florida Committee. He is also an Eagle Scout (yes, he has the Space Exploration merit badge) and went to Space Camp four times as a kid and a fifth time as an adult. He has journalism degrees from the University of Southern California and New York University. You can find Tariq at and as the co-host to the This Week In Space podcast with space historian Rod Pyle on the TWiT network. To see his latest project, you can follow Tariq on Twitter @tariqjmalik.