Long after the last Apollo astronaut left the moon, a mystery lingers: Why does moondust smell like gunpowder?
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.
How do you sniff moondust?
Every Apollo astronaut did it. They couldn't touch their noses to the lunar surface. But, after every moonwalk (or "EVA"), they would tramp the stuff back inside the lander. Moondust was incredibly clingy, sticking to boots, gloves, and other exposed surfaces. No matter how hard they tried to brush their suits before re-entering the cabin, some dust (and sometimes a lot of dust) made its way inside.
Once their helmets and gloves were off, the astronauts could feel, smell, and even taste the moon.