On Friday, NASA officials claimed that they were the rightful owners of the Apollo 11 rocket engines found on the floor of the Atlantic Ocean earlier this week by a privately-funded expedition headed up by Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos, CNN.com is reporting.
As previously reported here on RedOrbit, Bezos announced the discovery of the spacecraft’s F-1 engines that carried Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin to the moon using deep-sea sonar equipment. The engines, which powered the Saturn V rocket that carried the Apollo 11 astronauts to the lunar service, were located approximately 14,000 feet below the surface.
Bezos said that he and his crew were “making plans to attempt to raise one or more of them from the ocean floor,” to which NASA Administrator Charles Bolden responded in a statement, congratulating the billionaire and his associated for their “historic” find and wishing them “all the luck in the world.”
However, according to CNN, Bolden also added, “NASA does retain ownership of any artifacts recovered and would likely offer one of the Saturn V F-1 engines to the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum in Washington under longstanding arrangements with the institution.”
Bezos has reportedly requested that NASA allow one of the engines or a similar space artifact to be put on display in the Seattle Museum of Flight. The CNN wire reports say that it is possible that an engine could wind up at that location is the Smithsonian “declines” to take one of the F-1 engines or if a second one is recovered.
The Apollo 11 mission, arguably the most famous of all the Apollo missions, took place in July 1969. The Saturn V rocket with propelled the vehicle skyward was powered by a quintet of F-1 engines, generating a combined 7.5 million pounds of thrust before peeling off the rocket after a mere two minutes of use.
In a blog post detailing the efforts of retrieving the five engines, Bezos explained his fascination with the Apollo mission, saying, “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?”
He admitted that he and his crew “don’t know yet” what kind of condition the nine-ton, 32-million horsepower engines could 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.”
Robert Pearlman of CollectSpace.com, an online publication and community for space history enthusiasts, told CNN.com that raising the engines could pose a challenge, particularly if “all five of are still clumped together.” In that situation, he says, it would be “like trying to bring up the big part of the Titanic.”
Prior to launching the popular online retailer Amazon.com, Bezos worked in Wall Street, though he has long been a space enthusiast. After finding financial success with Amazon, 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.”
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