NASA’s Original Moon Rocket Was Powerful, But A Famous Claim Has Been Exaggerated
For anyone counting NASA’s Apollo-era gossip: yes, the moon landing happened, but no, the Saturn V rocket wasn’t so loud it melted concrete, and those waves beeps did not turn on. grass on fire up to a mile from the launch pad.
That’s the conclusion of a new study published in the Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, which seeks to correct some of the myths that have been circulating the world in the internet age.
“The Saturn V has taken on this kind of legendary, apocryphal status,” co-author Kent L. Gee of Brigham Young University said in a statement. “It was an opportunity to correct erroneous information about this vehicle.”
Last century’s data on the loudness of the massive rocket that carried astronauts to the Moon is limited, so Gee and his colleagues used a physical model to estimate that the loudness of the launch would have been around 204 decibels. A commercial airliner’s engine is around 120 to 160 decibels, but it’s important to understand the scale involved in interpreting this comparison.
“Decibels are logarithmic, so every 10 decibels is an order of magnitude increase,” Gee said. “One hundred and seven decibels would equal 10 aircraft engines. Two hundred would equal 10,000 engines.”
It’s definitely crazy strong, but not strong enough to “melt” concrete. In fact, the use of this word should be big advice as this rumor has not been verified by many scientists. The intense sound waves would not melt concrete, but they could cause concrete to shatter. Same goes for the sound of the rocket igniting the grass on fire somehow. Gee’s team suggests that if there were any grass fires near a Saturn V launch, it was more likely related to the rocket engine plume or heated debris from the launch.
The cultural record correction comes as NASA prepares for the maiden voyage of its latest major rocket, the long-awaited Space Launch System. SLS is years behind but is currently on the verge of launching the from Florida on Monday; it will send an unscrewed Orion capsule around the moon.
SLS will be even more powerful than Saturn V and will likely produce a comparable amount of noise. Don’t expect it to melt or shatter anything nearby, but if anyone was crazy enough to try and stand right next to the rocket at launch, it would instantly shatter their eardrums.
Always better to watch rockets from a distance, kids.