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

by Nancy Atkinson on March 28, 2012

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.


Nancy Atkinson is Universe Today's Senior Editor. She also works with Astronomy Cast, and is a NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador.

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