Apollo 11′s Rocket Engines Found on the Bottom of the Ocean

by Nancy Atkinson on March 28, 2012

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Apollo 11 Launch

Apollo 11 Launch

Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos has located the Apollo 11 F-1 rocket engines and plans to recover them. “I’m excited to report that, using state-of-the-art deep sea sonar, the team has found the Apollo 11 engines lying 14,000 feet below the surface, and we’re making plans to attempt to raise one or more of them from the ocean floor,” Bezos wrote on the Bezos Expeditions website. “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 said that about a year ago he was thinking of the 1969 Apollo 11 mission and wondered if the F-1 engines that started the seminal mission to the Moon could be located.

The Saturn V used five F-1 engines in the first stage. The F-1 is still the most powerful single-chamber liquid-fueled rocket engine ever developed, producing one and a half million pounds of thrust, burning 6,000 pounds of rocket grade kerosene and liquid oxygen every second. On July 16, 1969, Apollo 11 was launched and the five F-1s burned for just a few minutes, and then plunged back to Earth into the Atlantic Ocean.

Even though the engines remain the property of NASA, Bezos hopes that the space agency would allow the recovered engines to be displayed at the Smithsonian or another museum.

“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,” he said. “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 pointed out that no public funding will be used to attempt to raise and recover the engines, as it’s being undertaken by him privately.

Bezos said he’ll keep everyone posted on the progress of the recovery of these engines.

About 

Nancy Atkinson is Universe Today's Senior Editor. She also is the host of the NASA Lunar Science Institute podcast and works with Astronomy Cast. Nancy is also a NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador.

Deepsky_hunter March 29, 2012 at 12:44 AM

BRAVO!

gopher652003 March 29, 2012 at 1:12 AM

I’d rather he dump the money this would take into Blue Origin, and hire some engineers who have a clue what they’re doing:P.

hionthemountain March 29, 2012 at 1:18 AM

they must be worth a pile of cash just in recyclables value alone, but since NASA still retains ownership the effort is a gamble . . . maybe a huge waist of money . .

Mastercope March 29, 2012 at 4:59 AM

No, NASA will let this go as there is no private ownership and profitability if they go as told to museums there will be good vibes all around. Like Mr. Bezos said it will inspire a new generation of youth, Even one, maybe another Werner Von Braun, or Elon Musk, or many other notables, just only one could change the future. Let it be done.

Superluminal2 March 29, 2012 at 6:49 AM

How does he know for sure that these are Apollo 11′s engines? From the mid 60′s to early 70′s the were about 15 Saturn V launches, counting test flights. They all should have crashed in about the same area. Does NASA keep up with the exact locations of every burnt out stage that drops into the Atlantic?

arthur_gould March 29, 2012 at 2:08 PM

I was just going to post the same question. All Apollos followed pretty much the same trajectory into orbit for TLI (Trans Lunar Injection). You are right. The engines could be from any Apollo.

Olaf2 March 29, 2012 at 4:28 PM

Maybe they have a serial number on the engines.

Leland Scott March 29, 2012 at 5:29 PM

Interesting … An ambitious project for sure … !!

But do they have the serial numbers from the engines on the ocean floor .. ??

And … This (from the article) is in error ..
In total, NASA launched 65 F-1 engines, five per flight, on 13 Saturn V boosters between 1967 and 1973.

There have been only 12 launches of Saturn V in the period Nov 1967 to Dec 1972 ..

That leaves 60 engines on the ocean floor .. Need to sort thru a lot of debris to find the Apollo 11 ones .. Right .. ??

Happy hunting!
http://history.nasa.gov/SP-4029/Apollo_18-22_Saturn_Stage_Earth_Impact.htm

Superluminal2 March 30, 2012 at 12:10 AM

IIRC Skylab was launched in May 73, using a Saturn V.

IVAN3MAN_AT_LARGE March 30, 2012 at 1:10 AM
Skipdallas1 March 29, 2012 at 12:39 PM

Doesn’t International Maritime Law come into play here? Would not these engines be considered abandoned? I agree that if they are recovered, their place is in a museum. And I wish everyone connected to this effort all the best.

The Bobs March 29, 2012 at 5:39 PM

I too am skeptical of NASA’s claim to have retained ownership of these engines.

Shootist March 31, 2012 at 9:40 PM

Why? The US Federal Court just gave Spain back a bunch of gold lost in a storm, long, long ago. Gold found by salvagers, who lost the salvage rights after salvaging everything.

It is verra sad.

Robert Gishubl March 29, 2012 at 3:28 PM

I would prefer they stay together as much as possible, if they need to cut anything to recover an engine please just take photos and leave them where they are. Ithey can come out without any damage that would be great.

MartinHajovsky March 29, 2012 at 4:40 PM

You know, I never hesitate to tell people how to spend their own money, but really? This is the best thing Bezos can do with all that cash? Whatever, but I think he can inspire more people by pumping that into some privately funded planetary science.

squidgeny March 30, 2012 at 11:42 AM

Most people with an inordinate sum of money like to spend it on cars and houses, boats and jets. We’re lucky he did something, anything to do with the space program.

Are you complaining because what he did wasn’t space program enough?

Hydargos March 29, 2012 at 9:37 PM

@MartinHajovsky: listen, I bought a fully functional, Osborne-1 computer with original disks and manuals last week for 40 bucks. :)

bugzzz March 30, 2012 at 2:53 AM

These will be on sale on eBay shortly. I know he owns amazon but eBay is the better joke. Poetic license. Work with me here folks.

Atanu Maulik March 30, 2012 at 11:09 AM

Jeff Bezos should concentrate more on going up rather than going down.

Typhon1 April 10, 2012 at 7:40 PM

Maybe he could spend his money on other projects but these engines are pieces of history. Who wouldn’t want to see them ‘rescued’?

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