I've looked through the Apollo Technical Debriefings 11, 12, 14-17, for descriptions of the sounds the astronauts heard during take off.

Here is one example, from Apollo 15:


SCOTT MY evaluation, compared to Apollo 9, was that the lift-off itself was softer and quieter. When the tiedowns went, we could feel definite motion, but it didn't seem like as much as it was on Apollo 9. The noise was relatively low-level, and none of us had any trouble with the comm at all.*

They all reported hearing sounds, but I didn't see an indication of what kind of sound, whether it was a rumble, a roar, or something else. Is there any other description, by any Apollo astronaut, of the sounds they heard during the launch?

  • $\begingroup$ I'm pretty sure it would sound like any other rocket launch. A big rumble and intense vibration. $\endgroup$
    – Star Man
    Commented Aug 7, 2019 at 17:07
  • $\begingroup$ I know it sounded like a rumble to the observers 3.5 miles away. Does that necessarily mean the astronauts heard the same sound inside the CM? $\endgroup$
    – Bob516
    Commented Aug 7, 2019 at 17:09
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ No, they could be quite different. In the capsule you'd mostly hear sound transmitted through the structure. Compare it it talking while you have your fingers stuck in your ears. $\endgroup$
    – Hobbes
    Commented Aug 7, 2019 at 17:14
  • $\begingroup$ @Hobbes True. I was imagining it like a car. The sounds in and outside a car are relatively similar. $\endgroup$
    – Star Man
    Commented Aug 7, 2019 at 17:18
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @StarMan Depends on the car. High-end cars with thick door seals are remarkably more quiet on the inside. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 7, 2019 at 18:10

1 Answer 1


There's a lot of variations in the astronauts' subjective impressions of the sound: "muffled roar", "gutteral roar", and allusions to infrasonic vibration, for which "rumble" might be a fair description.

Collins, in Carrying The Fire:

Trust your instruments, not your body, the modern pilot is always told, but this beast is best felt. Shake, rattle, and roll! Noise, yes, lots of it, but mostly motion, as we are thrown left and right against our straps in spasmodic little jerks. It is steering like crazy...

Jeffrey Kluger's Apollo 8, largely drawing on Lovell's experience:

The noise inside the cockpit was like nothing the astronauts' simulator training had remotely been able to reproduce. For at least ten seconds -- though to Anders it felt like the better part of a minute -- the crewmates had no way to communicate with one another...

Not sure why the situation would have changed after ten seconds -- maybe acoustic shock reflected from the ground? Once the vehicle went supersonic, the engine noise would only be transmitted to the crew through the structure, not the air, but that happens at about T+66.

Al Worden, Falling To Earth:

Inside, I heard hardly any noise: only a muffled roar far beneath me, as the engine thrust vibrated up through the rocket structure. We began a smooth, slow rise from the launchpad in an eerie kind of silence ... We quickly went supersonic; the engine noise could no longer reach us.

Tom Stafford, We Have Capture:

The ride on the S-1C first stage was smooth, nothing but a guttural roar you felt rather than heard.

Quite a dialogue among the crew in the Apollo 11 debriefing:

Armstrong: Concerning the noise/vibration intensity at lift-off, it was my impression that the combination was rather severe until approximately the time of "Tower clear", at which time there was a significant decrease.

Collins: Yes, but would you say noise? I would say vibrations. I thought the noise level was much less than I had expected. The vibration was more.

Aldrin: How about a rumbling? That is physically felt as much as heard.

Collins: You don't hear it in your ears. You feel it in your whole body. Whether that's noise or whether that's vibration, I don't know.

Armstrong: I would agree that the noise was low level.

Collins: In terms of interference with communications, though, I think you would also have to say that it is low level.

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Speaking as one who used to try to fake this stuff in a simulator, crew reports of audio & motion cues after the fact are hugely diverse. We finally arrived at the strategy of having the crew office give us an official rep; we made him happy, then the rest of the office could argue with him. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 8, 2019 at 1:44

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