What Does the Moon Smell Like?
The Moon may not have any air to breathe, but it does have a very thin exosphere — a diffuse layer of molecules held by gravity above its surface that sometimes traps some of the very fine lunar dust in suspension via electrostatic activity. (In fact this very evening, at 11:27 pm EDT, Sept. 6, NASA’s LADEE mission will launch to study that dust suspended in the lunar exosphere.)
Now while you couldn’t take a whiff of the dust on the Moon directly (and if you have allergies, you probably wouldn’t want to) many of the Apollo astronauts reported that the super-fine Moon dust on their suits smelled like burnt gunpowder once they returned to the breathable environment inside the landing modules. But why? Find out here.
Moondust. “I wish I could send you some,” says Apollo 17 astronaut Gene Cernan. Just a thimbleful scooped fresh off the lunar surface. “It’s amazing stuff.”
Feel it—it’s soft like snow, yet strangely abrasive.
Taste it—”not half bad,” according to Apollo 16 astronaut John Young.
Sniff it—”it smells like spent gunpowder,” says Cernan.
Ultimately there may be a correlation between the smell of fresh spring rain here on Earth and the “lovely odor” of sharp, powdery dust on the Moon!