On a fateful day in 1969, five F-1 engines gave Apollo 11 the 1.5 million pounds of thrust it needed to leave Earth’s atmosphere and head to the moon. Just minutes after liftoff, those engines plunged into the Atlantic Ocean as planned — and there they sat, three miles below the surface for more than 40 years.
An expedition funded by Amazon’s CEO Jeff Bezos has recovered rusted pieces of two Apollo-era rocket engines from the depths of the Atlantic Ocean.
It’s been difficult to confirm which missions the rockets were used for since their serial numbers have worn away. NASA sent seven missions to the moon, but only six of them carried astronauts to the lunar surface.
In his personal blog post he wrote: “We’ve seen an underwater wonderland — an incredible sculpture garden of twisted F-1 engines that tells the story of a fiery and violent end, one that serves testament to the Apollo program.”
The team raised the main engine parts during three weeks at sea. The remnants of the engines, which helped send astronauts to the moon, will be sent back to Cape Canaveral, Florida, the launch pad for the manned lunar missions.
The exploration team used Remotely Operated Vehicles to find the engines, which sat on the ocean floor, more than 14,000 feet below sea level.
Last year, the Bezos team used sonar to spot the sunken engines resting nearly 3 miles deep in the Atlantic and 360 miles from Cape Canaveral. At the time, the internet mogul said the artifacts were part of the Apollo 11 mission that gave the world “one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”
“Many of the original serial numbers are missing or partially missing, which is going to make mission identification difficult. We might see more during restoration. The objects themselves are gorgeous,” says Bezos.
“We’re bringing home enough major components to fashion displays of two flown F-1 engines. The upcoming restoration will stabilize the hardware and prevent further corrosion. We want the hardware to tell its true story, including its 5,000 mile per hour re-entry and subsequent impact with the ocean surface.”
The recovered rockets, which are still government property, will be put on display. This isn’t the Amazon founder’s only foray beyond the digital marketplace. Bezos is also funding an effort to develop low-cost, reusable spaceships.
“Nearly one year ago, Jeff Bezos shared with us his plans to recover F-1 engines that helped power Apollo astronauts to the moon in the late 1960s and early 1970s,” said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden in a statement.
“We share the excitement expressed by Jeff and his team in announcing the recovery of two of the powerful Saturn V first-stage engines from the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean.”
This isn’t the first space-related project Bezos has sunk his teeth into. The billionaire has his own private space company called Blue Origin and invests heavily in futuristic projects.
Last November, Bezos put up $42 million to build a 10,000-year clock in the mountains near one of his homes, says Mashable.