Only 12 men walked on the moon until today. Beside all the samples and pictures that came back from the lunar surface one big question wasn’t answered for a very long time. When the astronauts returned from their moonwalks back into the atmosphere of the landing module and took off their helmets they instantly reported a strong and unknown smell.
A chemical reaction between moondust on their space suits and the oxygen in the capsule. 

»It is really a strong smell. 

It has that taste – to me, gunpowder 

– and the smell of gunpowder, too.« 

Charlie Duke, Apollo 16, 1972 (Lunar Surface Journal, 126:10:46)

Gene Cernan, Apollo 17, covered in moondust.

In 2010 Sue Corke (UK) and Hagen Betzwieser (Stuttgart, Germany) AKA artists WE COLONISED THE MOON (WCTM) commissioned the chemist Steve Pearce to produce for them an exclusive and unique fragrance which became known through their work as THE SMELL OF THE MOON®.

Based on their research and the reports of the Apollo astronauts, Pearce manufactured a smokey smell redolent of spent fireworks or burned metal.

In their installations, printed and performance work, the smell was consistently deployed as a conversation starter, a catalyst to the experience and description of a place, visitors could only access in their imagination.

MOON, scratch & sniff

Silkscreen, 270 x 170 mm

Edition 300 (SOLD OUT)


This image is imprinted with THE SMELL OF THE MOON® as described by Apollo 16 astronaut Charlie Duke and designed as a scent for WCTM by flavourist Steven Pearce at Omega Ingredients.

».. it even has the astronaut seal of approval, with Buzz Aldrin describing the aroma as similar to that of his own experience.«, Jan 6, 2012

»Apollo 14 lunar module pilot
Edgar D. Mitchell, confirmed to AOL News that the moon smells like gunpowder, possibly because of the composition of basalt rock from ancient lava flows«,

AOL NEWS, Oct 21, 2011

»NASA’s Deputy Associate Administrator for Communication
Bob Jacobs tweeted

The makers of MOON, scratch & sniff sent a couple to our office.
Mine now smells like it
has a fireplace.«,
Twitter, Oct 8, 2010

»Moon, scratch & sniff« was commissioned by the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam

and was launched there as part of »do it - smell it«, an event on olfactory art in September 2010.

Prints were available at Edinburgh Printmakers, and

the Fruitmarket Gallery in Edinburgh (December 2010).

»do it - smell it«

Curated by Caro Verbeek

Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam

Boing Boing, »Moon Scratch and Sniff«

Hufington Post, »What does the moon smell like? find out with this scratch and sniff«

dailymail, »One small sniff for man: Artists create posters 'that smell like the Moon«

cnet, »Scratch and sniff this art for a waft of moon«

AOL News, »Astronauts, Artists Agree: Moon Stinks of Gunpowder«

Fox, »Artists Create Moon Scratch and Sniff«, »Scent of the Moon revealed«

ARTnews, »Scent & Sensibility«


The Smell of the Moon – Elizabeth R. Straughan, University of Glasgow
Clot Magazine – To Boldly Smell What No Man Has Smelled Before 

Schloss Post – Interview WCTM


BBC Stargazing LIVE – Back to Earth Episode 1, Featured on 16 January, 2012

Tweeted by Dr. Lucy Green, Mullard Space Science Laboratories, UCL


About the Smell of the Moon and Astronaut Training

2011 / 2012

In a laboratory-like room, a lone astronaut tenderly gardens a group of rocks, 

spraying them periodically with THE SMELL OF THE MOON® – a scent synthesised from the reports of the Apollo crew.

No one can smell the moon directly. The vacuum in space prohibits this. However, when the astronauts that walked on the moon returned to their landing modules and removed their helmets, they inhaled a new scent. For the first time ever, 

the dust of the lunar surface, bombarded by meteroids for billions of years, reacted with oxygen and moisture.



Reports are relatively consistent, of gun powder, burnt metal or barbecue.
Using this information,THE SMELL OF THE MOON® was created for us here on earth. 

The installation draws not just on smell, but also on the iconography of early astronaut training.

Before the first moon landing was achieved, NASA hosted press events in which astronauts performed for photographers

by demonstrating tasks they had been trained to undertake. These rehearsals, for the actual action to come, return now as echoes of the fantasy of space exploration.

Contemporary witnesses of this ballet of space maintenance emerge pollinated with THE SMELL OF THE MOON®. Conveying from a designed and engineered space which is neither here nor there, the impossible sensory contamination spreads into the city beyond the gallery.

This is just a sneak preview.


Part of the exhibition Republic of the Moon

December 2011 – February 2012, FACT, Liverpool, UK

Moondust fragrance created for WCTM by perfumer

Steven Pearce of Omega Ingredients Ltd.

Additional Astronaut Performers

Stephanie Pitchers

Orian Peled

Hayley Nicola Fielding

Additional spacesuit customisation

Louisa Sorrentino

Photo / Video Hagen Betzwieser

Music Gurdonark

ENTER AT OWN RISK was commissioned by

The Arts Catalyst, London and FACT, Liverpool


BBC News In pictures: Republic of the Moon

BBC Material World Artists in Liverpool are preparing to launch a new exhibition that imagines how we might live on the Moon. Ahead of the exhibition's lift-off, Quentin speaks to curator Rob le Frenais and artist Sue Corke about making scratch 'n' sniff lunar postcards and training geese to be astronauts – all in the name of art, of course.

FACT Republic of the Moon, London

No. 16, Neuer Kunstverein Wuppertal, 2016

*since 2012

To expand the outreach of this project we originated the concept of LIVE MOON SMELLINGS, performance lectures, in which we used white, helium filled balloons containing a sample of THE SMELL OF THE MOON®. By collectively popping the balloons en masse the scent was released suddenly and dramatically into the lecture space creating an olfactory experience that participants still vividly remember.

»Boy, is that the lunar dust that smells so funny?! You think?«
Charlie Duke, Apollo 16, 1972 (Lunar Surface Journal, 126:53:07)

No. 01.    2012    ACC Gallery, Weimar

No. 02.    2012    Villa Rosenthal, Jena

No. 03.    2012    EB&Flow Gallery, London

No. 04.    2012    Halle14, Spinnerei, Leipzig, part of the exhibition »On Dilettantism«

No. 05.    2013    KOSMICA Mexico, Laboratorio Arte Alameda, National Institute of Fine Arts (INBA), Mexico City

No. 06.    2014    HELLERAU – European Centre for the Arts, FAST

No. 07.    2014    KOSMICA, Bargehouse, Oxo Tower Wharf, South Bank, London

No. 08.    2013    Hong Kong, MICROWAVE FESTIVAL

No. 09.    2014    Altana Galerie, Dresden 

No. 10.    2015    Akademie Schloss Solitude, Stuttgart

No. 11.    2016    Neuer Kunstverein, Wuppertal

No. 12.    2016    Amsterdam, Vrije Universiteit (VU)

No. 13.    2016    ISU Int. Space University, Strasbourg, France, MMS16

No. 14.    2017    HELLERAU – European Centre for the Arts, Springhouse

No. 15.    2017    ISU, Space UP

No. 16.    2017    ISU, Moon Village Workshop

No. 17.    2017    ISU Int. Space University, Strasbourg, France, MMS17

Since 2018 even HELIUM FREE (done with a tiny toy drone)

No. 18.    2018    ISU Int. Space University, Strasbourg, France, MMS18

No. 19.    2019    ISU Int. Space University, Strasbourg, France, MMS19

No. 20.    2020    ISU Int. Space University, Strasbourg, France, MMS20

Massive LIVE Moon Smelling (#4)

2012, 100 (30 cm) Balloons

Halle14, Spinnerei, Leipzig
as part of the exhibition »On Dilettantism«


Halle14 / Robert Beske // Shrine-Production

Moondust fragrance created for WCTM by perfumer

Steven Pearce of Omega Ingredients Ltd


Sue Corke before a LIVE MOON SMELLING

KOSMICA, Mexico City

After using helium-filled balloons as medium for this performance, it became clear – disregarding the fun of popping
a Moon Smell-filled balloon – the amount of valuable helium and waste that was created by the balloons must be changed.

After first experiments in 2016 approved by Caro Verbeek in Amsterdam, the new instrument for this performance are now tiny aroma drones.

»Thanks for your talks at ISU (Int. Space University, Strasbourg)
… your »smell of the moon« was quite inspirational and one of the most memorable lectures we had!«
Scott Ritter, ISU graduate

First LIVE MOON SMELLING done with a tiny toy drone.

Photo Prof. Chris Welch, ISU Int. Space University, 2017


After many years of designing and building artworks, installations, and performances, blood, sweat and tears, it’s time to realise our investment in our creative capital and work and bring you THE SMELL OF THE MOON® on an even larger and more accessible scale, to enjoy at home...

Since 2019 we have been working hard on the concept of

turning our scent into a new product.

You may never go but you will always remember

more very soon!