June 10, 2014— -- After spending 166 days as a resident of the International Space Station, astronaut Mike Hopkins is back on Earth and sharing his insights into the quirks of living and working in orbit.
In a Reddit "Ask Me Anything" interview on Monday, Hopkins revealed something that television and movies have neglected to mention: Space smells.
"Space has a smell. And I don't mean inside the space station," he wrote. "When a visiting vehicle docks with the space station, there is 'space' between the two vehicles. Once the pressure is equalized and the hatch is opened, you have this metallic ionization-type smell. It's quite unique and very distinct."
Who knew? Here are four other out-of-this-world tidbits Hopkins shared with readers.
Everyone Remembers Their First Time
In space, that is.
"It really does take your breath away," Hopkins wrote. "You open that hatch and you look at the Earth -- it's one of those times in your life that you will remember forever. I had a ball of emotions -- nervous, excited, intense, focused -- you have a job to do and you have to contain your emotions to get the job done. Fortunately, we spend a lot of time training and the training kicks in so we can go out, get the job done, and come back safely."
Hopkins said he liked the beef enchiladas and apricot cobbler the best.
He didn't comment on how the dishes compared to the real deal on Earth, but when you're in space, you can't really quibble over the food, right?
They Drink Sweat in Space
It's likely that during his 166 days in space, Hopkins washed down his beef enchiladas with a little drinking water made from recycled sweat.
You read that correctly.
Hopkins, a fitness buff, revealed the life cycle of sweat in space.
"The sweat actually sticks to you. It pools on your arms and head. It can pool and get in your eyes, too. If you are running, it does fling off onto the walls and stuff, and then you are cleaning the walls around you. So you have to towel off often to keep it under control," he said.
"The interesting part is that the sweat does go into the condensate system that gets recycled. Eventually after the towels dry off and the water is recycled, it becomes drinking water."
What He Missed the Most
Aside from family, Hopkins said he missed "the little things" the most.
"Fresh fruit. The ability to take a shower," he said. "It's the little things that take some getting used to."