Returning astronaut looks forward to quiet

Photo credit: Pixabay

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

Spaceflight Now, among other media outlets, reported on astronaut Frank Rubio’s recent return to earth after 371 days in space. That’s the longest duration space flight for an American astronaut, and the third longest since space flight began in the early 60s. Rubio’s mission was only supposed to last six months, but the Soyuz ferry ship was hit by a presumed micrometeoroid while docked to the International Space Station. That damaged a vital coolant line, and Russian engineers decided the safest thing was to launch a replacement. I guess the ISS program doesn’t keep a spare ferry ship in the garage, so the astronauts had to stay in space for an extra six months.

What interested me was Rubio’s comment on his return. When asked what he most looked forward to back on Earth, Rubio said, “hugging my wife and kids is probably going to be paramount. And I’ll probably focus on that for the first couple days. We’re blessed enough to have kind of a quiet backyard. And I think just going out in the yard and enjoying the trees and the silence. Up here, we kind of have the constant hum of machinery. So I’m looking forward to just being outside and enjoying the peace and quiet.” 

As fall begins and the days get shorter due to Earth’s elliptical circuit through space around the sun, it’s obvious that in a certain way we are all space travelers. But unlike the hum of machinery in the ISS, our environment is naturally quiet. This is shown by the National Park Service’s noise maps.

It’s actually federal policy, as mandated by Congress in the Noise Control Act of 1972, “to promote an environment for all Americans free from noise that jeopardizes their health or welfare.” Unfortunately, the policy hasn’t been enforced since the Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Noise Abatement and Control was defunded during the Reagan administration. The Quiet Coalition’s parent organization, Quiet Communities, Inc., recently sued the EPA to get it to follow the federal mandate to protect public health and the environment from harmful noise. 

We hope the lawsuit is successful. A quieter world will be a better and healthier world for all.

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