I just saw a TV docu about the Apollo mission. Apollo 8 astronaut William Anders said the vibrations and noise during launch were much heavier than expected.

I later heard a speech by the Shuttle astronaut Ulf Merbold. He said the vibrations caused by the solid fuel boosters were much heavier than those of the cryogenic engines, they were "as smooth as silk".

Are there any statements from astronauts with Apollo and Shuttle experience about vibrations and noise in comparison?

Astronaut John Young made two flights each, Apollo 10 and 16 and STS 1 and 9 (as well as Gemini 3 and 10). Are there other astronauts with both Apollo and Shuttle flights?

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    $\begingroup$ Related: What sounds did the Apollo astronauts hear during launch? $\endgroup$ Jul 9, 2020 at 18:53
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    $\begingroup$ To your last question: Ken Mattingly flew Apollo 16 and STS-4. A few other early STS crew members had previous flight experience with Skylab and ASTP, but those crews were launched on the much smaller Saturn 1B: Jack Lousma, Vance Brand, Paul Weitz, and Owen Garriott. $\endgroup$ Jul 9, 2020 at 19:00
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    $\begingroup$ My belief is that the SRBs felt much rougher than the Saturn V first stage, but I don't have a reference. $\endgroup$ Jul 9, 2020 at 19:01
  • $\begingroup$ I share the belief of @RussellBorogove but without a statement or diagrams of acceleration instabilities we got no proof. $\endgroup$
    – Uwe
    Jul 9, 2020 at 20:00
  • $\begingroup$ Related: after the recent Crew Dragon launch, the asronauts said the first stage felt much smoother than the shuttle (with SRBs), but the second stage felt much more rough (comparing to shuttle after dropping the SRBs). $\endgroup$
    – SF.
    Jul 10, 2020 at 7:44

1 Answer 1


Are there any statements from astronauts with Apollo and Shuttle experience about vibrations and noise in comparison?

John Young:

Q: How did the launch compare to the Saturn V?

JY: "It didn't shake near as bad but there were a little more Gs [forces of gravity] — 1.2 Gs on the Saturn V, 1.5 Gs at liftoff on the shuttle. We only got up to 3 Gs, well, and you only got up to a little over 2 on the Saturn V because we were putting so much payload in orbit."


The Crew Report portion of the STS-1 Mission Report contains a further comparison:

The vibrations after staging were estimated subjectively to feel like a grinding in the background that was similar to that experienced on the Saturn IV-B.

Ken Mattingly:

We learn it's very a comfortable ride on the Shuttle compared to the Saturn V, it doesn’t slam you into the back of the seat.

Meeting Ken Mattingly (This appears to be from notes taken during a Q&A session with Mattingly)

"Are there other astronauts with both Apollo and Shuttle flights?"

In addition to Young and Mattingly these flown Apollo astronauts flew in the Shuttle program:

  • Vance Brand (ASTP) - flew STS-5, STS-41B, STS-35
  • Fred Haise (Apollo 13) flew Enterprise drop tests - atmospheric only
  • Jack Lousma (Skylab 3) commanded STS-3
  • Owen Garriott (Skylab 3) flew on STS-9
  • Paul Weitz (Skylab 2) commanded STS-6

Apollo-era astronauts who didn't fly on Apollo but did on the Shuttle:

  • Dick Truly
  • Karol Bobko
  • Robert Crippen
  • Gordon Fullerton
  • Hank Hartsfield
  • Bob Overmyer
  • Donald Peterson
  • Joe Allen
  • Anthony England
  • Karl Henize
  • Bill Lenoir
  • Story Musgrave
  • Robert Parker
  • Bill Thornton

Wikipedia Astronauts by Year of Selection

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    $\begingroup$ Young's (~10 year old) memory of the Saturn V is off; peak acceleration on the first stage was about 3.9g. $\endgroup$ Jul 9, 2020 at 19:39
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    $\begingroup$ Added Garriott to your list. $\endgroup$ Jul 9, 2020 at 19:41
  • $\begingroup$ Yeah, it was long after both flights. But the question doesn't ask if the comparison is right, just if there was one. Thanks for the edit. $\endgroup$ Jul 9, 2020 at 19:42
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    $\begingroup$ The combustion instabilities and the POGO effect of the Saturn V first stage F-1 engines must have been very bad when Young experienced the vibrations stronger than those of the Shuttle SRBs. $\endgroup$
    – Uwe
    Jul 9, 2020 at 20:06

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