It’s rather hard to build a career around your nose. Odour testers can be employed in perfume and food industries, but their number is rather small. But there’s a man who’s built his career in high tech using just his olfactory senses. His name is George Aldrich, and he works as a chemical specialist at NASA.
Often referred to as NASA’s nose, he is the “chief sniffer” among a team of expert sniffers, who have to sniff on various things before these can be sent into space. It is mandated that NASA cannot send any object to space unless it has been smelled first. Nothing gets sent unto space unless first cleared by George.
Forty years ago, when NASA was looking for sniffing volunteers, George was working as a fire-fighter. He applied for the job and did exceedingly well at the test to identify different odours such as musky, floral, pungent and putrid. About his job, he once said, “What makes me really important to NASA is that I actually use my sense of smell to help protect the astronauts from obnoxious odours in space. I feel like I’m a bodyguard for the astronauts.” His job ensures that the astronauts’ safety and comfort is maintained when they are in outer space.
George’s work is important as odours in a spacecraft won’t go away as there is no window to let in fresh air. So each and every item, including the astronauts’ personal belongings has to be cleared by the odour test. The odour rating for each item is given on a 4-point scale, ranging from not detectable (1) to not bearable (4). An item rated more than a 2.4 is not allowed on the flight. It is said that a woman astronaut’s particular mascara was once rejected on the odour test!
Because of his job, George is quite popular in the US. He has appeared on TV shows like ‘To Tell the Truth’; at which he introduced himself with “My name is George Aldrich, and I have a job that stinks!