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Is it Superman? No, it is White Sands Test Facility's George Aldrich
May 10, 2011

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Although George Aldrich possesses a great work ethic, has worked for NASA's Space Shuttle Program at the White Sands Test Facility near Las Cruces, NM for 37 years, has conducted 851 smell missions for NASA throughout his career, was awarded a Silver Snoopy, and has volunteered tirelessly as a Science Advisor in the public schools, a nagging question has remained in the hearts of his fellow coworkers. Is he really superhuman?

Stan Lee's Superhumans television series on the History Channel wanted to know, too, so they put George through a battery of evaluations to determine if he had superhuman abilities.

At the Columbia Commemorative Memorial building in Los Angeles, CA, Pam Dalton, Ph.D., conducted diagnostic tests on George's sense of smell.

At the All States K-9 Dog Training Center, George was tasked to use his nose in the same situations that a trained dog (whose sense of smell is 100 times more powerful than George's) would be asked to perform: find drugs stashed in a field of look-alike books, find a pipe bomb hidden in a field of random PVC pipes, and find a cell phone submerged in water within a closed container.

So how did George do? According to Pam Dalton from Monell Chemical Senses Center, an independent expert, "George did really well for a person of his age. The sense of smell diminishes in humans, starting in their 50's, but George's is very strong. One possibility of his ability to retain his sense of smell is that he uses it during his work day." That translated into, "yes, George has superhuman scent abilities."

By day, George is a Chemical Specialist, in the Molecular Desorption and Analysis Laboratory at the test facility and loads samples and runs instrumentation to test for toxicity and odor on materials that go on the International Space Station, or in the Space Shuttle. But what does he do by night?

"I sleep like a baby," says George.

Daniel Browning Smith, the host of Superhuman and in his 30's, also completed the same odor tests as George. Is Daniel's sense of smell as sensitive as George's? Does George really possess a superhuman olfactory sense? You'll have to watch the episode to find out!

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(L to R) George Aldrich, Daniel Browning Smith, and Pam Dalton, Ph. D., in the Monell Chemical Senses Center during the scent test.
(L to R) George Aldrich, Daniel Browning Smith, and Pam Dalton, Ph. D., in the Monell Chemical Senses Center during the scent test.
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Page Last Updated: September 19th, 2013
Page Editor: NASA Administrator