Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Amazon's Jeff Bezos Recovers Apollo Saturn V Rocket Engines

CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida -- Amazon's Jeff Bezos announced today that his expedition team has recovered two Saturn V first stage rocket engines from 14,000 feet below the Atlantic Ocean's surface. 

The powerful F-1 engines, which once shook homes on Florida's Space Coast when launched from Kennedy Space Center during the Apollo program, had rested silently on the ocean bottom for nearly five decades. The engines have not yet been positively identified as to which Apollo mission they belong.

Bezos writes, in part:

"What an incredible adventure. We are right now onboard the Seabed Worker headed back to Cape Canaveral after finishing three weeks at sea, working almost 3 miles below the surface.  We found so much. We’ve seen an underwater wonderland – 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. We photographed many beautiful objects in situ and have now recovered many prime pieces. Each piece we bring on deck conjures for me the thousands of engineers who worked together back then to do what for all time had been thought surely impossible....

Many of the original serial numbers are missing or partially missing, which is going to make mission identification difficult. We might see more during restoration. The objects themselves are gorgeous.

The technology used for the recovery is in its own way as otherworldly as the Apollo technology itself. The Remotely Operated Vehicles worked at a depth of more than 14,000 feet, tethered to our ship with fiber optics for data and electric cables transmitting power at more than 4,000 volts. We on the team were often struck by poetic echoes of the lunar missions. The buoyancy of the ROVs looks every bit like microgravity. The blackness of the horizon. The gray and colorless ocean floor. Only the occasional deep sea fish broke the illusion."

It was nearly a year ago that Bezos announced the discovery of the rockets.  NASA Administrator Charles Bolden later said he supported the effort which did not receive any public funding.

“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 long-standing arrangements with the institution as the holder of the national collection of aerospace artifacts," said Bolden.

Bolden said that NASA would work to try to have the other engine made available for display at the Museum of Flight in Seattle, Washington, which Bezos had requested.

"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," Bezos wrote a year ago.  "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."

"Nearly one year ago, Jeff Bezos shared with us his plans to recover F-1 engines that helped power Apollo astronauts to the moon in the late 1960s and early 1970s," said Bolden.  "We share the excitement expressed by Jeff and his team in announcing the recovery of two of the powerful Saturn V first-stage engines from the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean."

Image Credit: Bezos Expeditions