Apollo 11 Engines Recovered From Ocean Floor

Apollo-11-Engine

An expedition financed in large part by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has recovered the massive Saturn V engines that powered Apollo 11 out of Earth’s orbit and on toward the Moon:

What goes up must come down, and the five F-1 rocket engines that powered Apollo 11 into space are no exception. A few minutes after liftoff July 16, 1969, these engines fell into the Atlantic Ocean in a splashdown. NASA had no plans to recover them, but 42 years later, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and his exploration company, Jeff Bezos Expeditions, decided to do just that. A year later, Bezos announced that deep-sea sonar had located the Apollo 11 engines and that he planned to bring them to the surface.

A year after that, the Bezos Expeditions Apollo recovery project succeeded. On March 20, 2013, he stated on his website that the team had brought enough components back from the seafloor to create two full F-1 displays.

These engines, before they fulfilled their 165-second duty and crashed 67 miles (108 kilometers) back to Earth, boasted 1.5 million pounds of thrust and 32 million horsepower and in a single second burned 6,000 pounds of kerosene and liquid oxygen. They sent the first crew to the Moon and have been lying 2.6 miles (4.2km) underwater ever since.

After discovering the F-1s’ location, Bezos’ team spent three weeks at sea before recovering the engines. They sent Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROVs) more than 14,000 feet (4,267 meters) under the ocean. Controlling and powering them from that distance required miles of fiber-optic cable and more than 4,000 volts, or more than 300 times the voltage necessary to power a car.

The parallel challenges and technologies of the deep-sea exploration and space exploration were not lost on Bezos.

“The technology used for the recovery is in its own way as otherworldly as the Apollo technology itself,” he said. “We on the team were often struck by poetic echoes of the lunar missions… The blackness of the horizon. The gray and colorless ocean floor.”

Although Bezos and the team themselves did not venture miles underwater, as the ROVs explored and interacted with the F-1s’ watery home, they relayed video of their journey.

“We’ve seen an underwater wonderland,” said Bezos. “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 engines, even after Bezos’ planned restoration, are still NASA property. The organization will determine where their ultimate resting places will be. However, they are likely to offer one to the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. Bezos hopes the second will go to the Museum of Flight in Seattle, near which both Amazon and Blue Origins, his private spaceflight company, are headquartered.

Conceivably, the engines from every single Apollo mission ought to be recoverable, at least in part.

FILED UNDER: Quick Takes, Science & Technology
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020.

Comments

  1. John Peabody says:

    I thought I heard this news 3-4 days ago, but that the engines could not be identified, because serial numbers had deteriorated. If thats the case, how do you suppose these happen to be labeled Apollo 11 engines? Well, it’s pretty cool, in any case.

  2. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @John Peabody:

    how do you suppose these happen to be labeled Apollo 11 engines

    These were the F-1 engines which were only used on the Saturn rockets (5 per rocket). The serial #s being degraded only prevent them from telling which Apollo mission they were used on.

  3. Anderson says:

    What a sad waste of money. An argument for supertax.

  4. Mikey says:

    @Anderson:

    What a sad waste of money.

    Why? These are items of incredible historical significance. They propelled the spacecraft that lifted the first humans to set foot on another celestial body. They are every bit as archaeologically significant as anything we’ve dug up from ancient Rome–that they sat on the ocean floor for only a few decades rather than thousands of years makes no difference.

    The engines still belong to the United States. They will be put on display, likely at the National Air and Space Museum. Essentially what we get out of this is a privately-financed expedition to recover publicly-owned artifacts. Hardly a waste of money.

    And that’s not even mentioning the many people whose livelihoods were supported through their involvement with this. Jeff Bezos didn’t just dump money into a hole and cover it up, he paid those people.

  5. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @Anderson: What a sad waste of money. An argument for supertax.

    So, because you don’t approve of how a guy way smarter and way richer than you chooses to spend his money, you want it taken away from him and spent in ways in which you approve?

    The only appropriate response to such a demand is “FU.”

    Bezos has, I presume, paid all the taxes he is required to pay, and is free to do with his money whatever he damned well pleases. And if that includes hunting for and hauling up 40+-year-old hunks of rusting machinery, then fine. More power to him. It’s his money, he earned it, he paid the taxes for it, he can do any damned thing he wants with it.

    And if that bothers you, then even more power to him.

  6. Bleev K says:

    @Anderson: Because of you, I agree with Jenos. Shame on you!

  7. wr says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13: “The only appropriate response to such a demand is “FU.””

    Especially if you have the vocabulary of a two year old and the intellectual abilities of a dim adolescent.

  8. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @wr: Oddly enough, it’s also the only appropriate response to nearly all of your worthless comments, which almost always consist of nothing more than lame attempts to insult people and offer nothing to the topic at hand.

    But if you prefer a different one, may I offer a hearty GFY?