By Robert Lynch
“Peaches.” Martin said, pipetting a test solution onto an experimental substrate, “I can smell peaches.”
“There are no peaches on station,” I said, looking up from my own experiment.
“Maybe some kind of perfume or conditioner?” Martin asked, turning to face me.
“Couldn’t be,” I replied, “Mission Control doesn’t let scented soaps or detergents up here, in case someone has an allergy.”
“Maybe I’m just thinking about it,” Martin said. “You know how sometimes you start thinking about something and can smell it?”
“Hmm, but I can smell it too, now,” I said.
Martin shrugged, turning back to his experiment, aiming the micropipette towards the solution again.
“It might not be peaches.” I thought out loud. “The scent of peaches used in manufactured goods is g-heptyl-g-butyrolactone. You can make it from…”
I rushed through the station to the generator, hitting the manual shutdown. The batteries would keep the lights on for a few hours. With a drill, I removed the inspection panel. The copper windings of the generator looked fine, but the smell of peaches filled the room to the point that the smell became a generic overpowering bad smell. Touching the inside of the casing, I felt moisture on the inside.
“We use 2-heptyl-butane-1,4-diol as a lubricant in these generators,” I said. “It’s nothing special, but if it’s heated to 300 degrees and passed over a copper catalyst, it turns into g-heptyl-g-butyrolactone; and smells like peaches.” We’d have to pull the generator apart and fix the leak.
“Lucky they don’t use an amine-based lubricant,” Martin joked, “Or the station would smell fishy.”
I shook my head. “It still wouldn’t smell as bad as that Dad joke.”