Moon Scratch and Sniff

It is really a strong smell. It has that taste -- to me, gunpowder -- and the smell of gunpowder, too.—Charlie Duke, Apollo 16 astronaut, 1972

Moon Scratch and Sniff, a limited-edition silkscreen print by artists Hagen Betzwieser and Sue Corke, imprinted with the smell of the moon as described by astronaut Charlie Duke, above. The artists designed the scent with flavourist Steven Pearce at Omega Ingredients, UK.

The print was a commission for the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, and debuted there as part of olfactory art exhibition last month. Available at Edinburgh Printmakers (now), and the Fruitmarket Gallery in Edinburgh (beginning December 2010). More about the artists at

(via Robert Pearlman's wonderful website,


  1. I want to smell the mooooooon!!! I bet it smells like… a sandbox… and matchsticks… and unicorns!
    (still wants to go to space camp)

  2. Not really much to look at, and a skin irritant as well. I think the “art investment” contribution from next week’s dole check will go elsewhere. Thanks, though.

    It smells like the moon. Imagine that.

  3. I’m no rocket scientist, but wouldn’t Charlie have been smelling the air mix generated by his lunar excursion suit?

    1. Because there is no air on the moon to breathe, the only way to smell the moon is to smell moon rocks once aboard the spacecraft.

  4. @That Evening Sun: No, he’s talking about the smell of the Moon itself. Moon dust, like Playa dust, gets everywhere. It would be impossible to get all the dust off someone before they returned to the LEM. Remember, the LEM had no air lock; they depressurized to go out, and pressurized when they returned. So after that first Moon walk, they’d be smelling Moon dust until the scrubbers had found every last grain of dust.

  5. “They say the moon, it smells just like a cherry bomb”

    –Tom Waits

    From “Spacious Thoughts” by NASA

  6. This is BS. I scratched it, and I didn’t smell anything unusual – all it did was make funny colors on my screen!

  7. Thanks a bunch, ass holes. Now I have a big ass scratch on my monitor and I couldn’t even smell anything.

  8. As a geologist, I’ve smelled/smelt a lot of rocks. I had never thought of the smell of the moon before, but I know exactly what he means. I also know though that the moon is anorthosite and basalt at the surface. Basalt (which is what Hawaii is made of) doesn’t have much of a smell, but anorthosite is largely plagioclase feldspar which has a distinct smell.

    It’s not quite gunpowder in scent, though that’s probably the closest way to describe it. Can’t think of anything better.

    But if you want to know for real, better would be to find a piece of felsic (light-colored) igneous rock – they all smell pretty similar – and that should be very similar to the moon. Not all rocks have a distinct odor, but these do.

    Or I guess you could go and scratch and sniff, but felsic igneous rocks are much more accessible.

  9. No one really knows what’s up with that smell, but chances are it isn’t actually the moon dust, but the vaccuum, or a reaction of materials to the vaccuum. Astronauts like to call this the “smell of space” nowadays. There is no shortage of examples, say, on the ISS, when spacewalkers have come back in after an EVA and the astronauts then comment on the space suits and the repressurized airlock having a special smell to them, not easy to describe, but often called being similar to gunpowder.

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