Amazon’s Jeff Bezos finds Apollo 11 engines at the bottom of the ocean
By Mark Brown
A team of undersea explorers, led by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, has found the F-1 rocket engines that sent the Apollo 11 mission to the moon.
The engines, developed by Rocketdyne in the 1950s, provided the necessary lift-off thrust to push the Saturn V rocket into space. They ran at 32 million horsepower, and burned 2,700 kilograms of rocket grade kerosene and liquid oxygen every second.
Five of those rocket engines burned for just a few minutes, before detaching, plummeting back to Earth and plunging into the Atlantic Ocean. That’s where they’ve slept for the last 43 years.
"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," Bezos says. So he put together that team, used some state-of-the-art deep sea sonar and found the engines lying on the sea bed, some 4.2 kilometres below the surface.
The plan is to raise one or more of the engines. “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,” explains Bezos. “On the other hand, they’re made of tough stuff, so we’ll see.”
He’s well aware that the rockets are still property of Nasa, so “I imagine that Nasa would decide to make it available to the Smithsonian for all to see.” He’s in conversation with the space agency to provide an engine to the Museum of Flight in Seattle, if he can raise more than one.
"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," the Amazon president says.
Bezos is a known space enthusiast, and even founded his own spaceflight start-up firm, Blue Origin, in 2000. In 2011 the notoriously tight-lipped private firm revealed that an unmanned spaceship lost control during a test flight and the experimental rocket had to be destroyed.