Amazon Founder Jeff Bezos Recovers Apollo-Era F-1 Engines From Atlantic Ocean
March 21, 2013

Amazon Founder Jeff Bezos Recovers Apollo-Era F-1 Engines From Atlantic Ocean

Lawrence LeBlond for - Your Universe Online

Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos last year announced that he would send a team of explorers to hunt out and recover F-1 engines from the historic Apollo 11 moon launch. Just yesterday (Mar 20), Bezos made a new announcement that the team had recovered several engine parts from the bottom of the Atlantic off the coast of Cape Canaveral, yet it is too early to tell if the F-1 engine parts are from the famed Apollo 11 mission.

The team recovered two rocket engines that have been sitting in the ocean waters for more than 40 years. The crew found the engines at a depth of 14,000 feet and recovered them after three ambitious weeks at sea.

Bezos called the expedition an “incredible adventure,” saying in a blog post that the three-week recovery effort paid off, and calling the acquired artifacts “gorgeous.”

“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,” he added in his blog post.

The giant F-1 engines were the driving force of the first stage of the Saturn V. The rocket relied on the five-engine cluster of F-1s to generate 3,750 tons of thrust to be able to lift the rocket from the launch pad. Each engine stands 19 feet tall, 12 feet wide and weighs 9 tons. The F-1s were developed by engineers from NASA´s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.

The F-1s burned a mixture of liquid oxygen and kerosene at more than 15 metric tons per second during the two-and-a-half-minute burn. Each engine had more thrust than three space shuttle main engines combined. The five-engine cluster lifted the Saturn V first-stage to a height of 36 miles and to a speed of about 6,000 mph. Once the engines completed their task and ran out of fuel, they would detach from the first-stage and fall back to Earth, crashing into the Atlantic Ocean for a burial at sea.

NASA calls the F-1 "the most powerful single-nozzle, liquid-fueled rocket engine ever developed."

Bezos said the team “photographed many beautiful objects in situ and have now recovered many prime pieces.” He added that each piece the team pulled up left him daydreaming back to a time when “thousands of engineers... worked together” to design, develop and launch these incredible F-1s.

He said the team is bringing back enough major components to create a display of two mission-used F-1 engines. While Bezos maintained that precise mission identification will be difficult due to long-term corrosion, he said they should be able to restore and stabilize the hardware to prevent further damage.

“We want this hardware to tell its true story, including its 5,000-mile-per-hour re-entry and subsequent impact with the ocean surface,” Bezos said in his blog. “We're excited to get this hardware on display where just maybe it will inspire something amazing.”

He noted that restoration may help the team figure out exactly which mission the engines were used on. It would be truly amazing if they are in fact the F-1s used on the Apollo 11 mission, the famous July 16, 1969 launch that saw the late Neil Armstrong take the first-ever human step on the moon just a few days later.

After that famous launch, the exact whereabouts of the F-1 engines went undetected. Bezos, who was only 5 years old at the time of the Apollo 11 mission, may have now become the first person to solve that mystery. Only time will tell.

But while Bezos is funding the entire recovery and restoration project he was quick to point out that the engines remain the property of NASA.

NASA´s chief administrator Charles Bolden took the initiative to congratulate the recovery efforts shortly after Bezos posted his blog.

"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," Bolden said. "This is a historic find and I congratulate the team for its determination and perseverance in the recovery of these important artifacts of our first efforts to send humans beyond Earth orbit."

"We look forward to the restoration of these engines by the Bezos team and applaud Jeff's desire to make these historic artifacts available for public display," he said in a statement, picked up by the Los Angeles Times.

It has not yet been decided where the restored engines will be displayed. Bezos said he would like to see one of them go to the Museum of Flight in Seattle, close to the where both his online retail giant Amazon and private spaceflight company Blue Origin are located.

NASA has indicated it would offer one to the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC.

Bezos thanked many people in his blog who had helped make the recovery efforts a reality. Among them: Mike Kelly, whose sonar interpretation made finding the engines possible; the several ROV operators, who were able to pilot the underwater equipment flawlessly through the strong ocean currents; photographers Josh Bernstein and Evan Kovas, who captured numerous amazing shots of the underwater graveyard; and to countless others, including his family.

In the end, the biggest thanks went out to NASA.

“They extended every courtesy and every helping hand — all of NASA´s interactions were characterized by plain old common sense, something which we all know is impressive and uncommon. We're excited to be bringing a couple of your F-1s home,” concluded Bezos.

Image Below: An F-1 engine part is recovered from the Atlantic sea floor. Credit: BezosExpeditions