Humans bring noise to Mars

Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

by Arline L. Bronzaft, Ph.D., Board of Directors, GrowNYC, and Co-founder, The Quiet Coalition

Am I surprised to read that NASA’s Mars rover, when it landed on Mars, brought “grinding, clanking, banging” to this planet? The answer is a resounding “No.” After all, having brought noise pollution to planet Earth in huge abundance, wouldn’t it follow that humans might very likely bring forth this pollutant to the planets that they will be exploring?

The vehicle, named Perseverance, that traveled along Mars’ surface, was sent to search for rocks that would be brought back to Earth for testing “for signs of past life.” However, the vehicle itself recorded the sounds it produced on Mars which consisted of “high-pitched scratching noise.” Interestingly, an engineer on the rover team stated, “If I heard these sounds driving my car, I’d pull over and call for a tow.” This article also lets us know that a helicopter will shortly fly over Mars. May I assume this will also impose noise pollution on the planet?

I recently learned that NASA is working on a quiet wing to reduce aircraft noise pollution. Thus, NASA is well aware of the adverse impacts of aircraft noise on the health of individuals living with overhead aircraft noise. Traditionally, noise abatement generally took place after the introduction of products that generate noise, not before. But one would think that today with so much more emphasis on potential noise impacts, “prevention might actually precede cures.” In light of the engineer’s statement cited above, will NASA reflect on the noise it might impose on other planets as they set forth to explore them?

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