George Aldrich isn’t an expert on space travel and building shuttles, yet, he holds one of the most important jobs at NASA. The agency doesn’t send any object to space unless he’s smelled it first! The master sniffer, also known as ‘Nostril-damus’, has protected hundreds of astronauts just by smelling the stuff that will be put into spacecrafts.
Aldrich can smell anything and everything, even the things that most of us find disgusting. He has had a superior sense of smell since childhood, but his special talent was discovered only around 40 years ago. He was a firefighter in White Sands back then, and NASA had started to look for sniffing volunteers. So Aldrich applied and he did exceedingly well at their calibration test in which he had to identify the seven primary odors – musky, minty, floral, ethereal, camphoraceous, pungent and putrid.
Since then, Aldrich has worked for NASA at their White Sands test facility, where his nose reigns supreme. The job might seem comical, but just how important is it? As it turns out, very. “Astronauts could actually get sick from being subjected to obnoxious odors,” said Aldrich. And it’s really true – the Russians had to abort a mission in 1976 because their astronauts couldn’t tolerate a hideous stench inside their shuttle. Too bad they didn’t have their own ‘nasal-naut’ like the Americans do.