March 29, 2012

Jeff Bezos Finds Apollo 11 Engines

The most famous of all the Apollo missions, Apollo 11 put Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on the moon, the first time man had ever stepped foot there. In July of 1969, the Saturn V rocket, powered by five massive F-1 engines, roared into life and launched itself into history books worldwide.

Generating 7.5 million pounds of thrust, the engines peeled off of the rocket, as planned, after just two minutes of use. These engines tumbled into the Atlantic ocean and have yet to be recovered.

In a blog post detailing the efforts of retrieving the five engines, Jeff Bezos explains his fascination with the Apollo mission. “Millions of people were inspired by the Apollo Program. I was five years old when I watched Apollo 11 unfold on television, and without any doubt it was a big contributor to my passions for science, engineering, and exploration. A year or so ago, I started to wonder, with the right team of undersea pros, could we find and potentially recover the F-1 engines that started mankind´s mission to the moon?”

Using deepsea sonar, the team was able to find the engines lying 14,000 feet deep below the surface of the Atlantic ocean. Bezos´ team then plans to raise one or more of the engines from their resting spots, depending on their condition.

“We don´t know yet what condition these engines might be in - they hit the ocean at high velocity and have been in salt water for more than 40 years. On the other hand, they´re made of tough stuff, so we´ll see.”

Bezos says that while the engines have been lying untouched on the bottom of the ocean for more than 40 years, they remain the property of NASA. As such, he and his team will leave it up to NASA to decide where these rockets should go, be it the Smithsonian or a private warehouse. If Bezos has his way, the rockets would end up in the Pacific Northwest.

“If we´re able to raise more than one engine, I´ve asked NASA if they would consider making it available to the excellent Museum of Flight here in Seattle.”

Before starting the popular online retailer Amazon.com, Bezos worked in Wall Street. However, he was ever the space enthusiast. As Amazon and his pockets continued to grow, Bezos started a company called Blue Origin. Blue Origin is one of several companies racing to bring private enterprise to space travel, “so that many people can afford to go and so that we humans can better continue exploring the solar system.”

Judging from his blogs, Bezos simply wants to raise these engines from the bottom of the ocean and take people into space in an attempt to inspire young minds. Bezos explains it this way on his blog, bezosexpeditions.com: “NASA is one of the few institutions I know that can inspire five-year-olds. It sure inspired me, and with this endeavor, maybe we can inspire a few more youth to invent and explore.”

Bezos also makes it clear the funding for this research was completely private, and no public funding was received for this project.


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