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Amazon's Jeff Bezos to search for sunken Apollo 11 engines (+video)

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos says that his deep-sea sonar expedition in the Atlantic has located the five engines used to launch Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins to the moon in 1969, and he plans to bring at least one of them to the surface. 

By SPACE.com and collectSPACE.com Staff / March 29, 2012

This 1963 photo provided by NASA shows an F-1 Engine for the Saturn V S-IC (first) stage at Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. An undersea expedition spearheaded by Amazon CEO and founder Jeff Bezos used sonar to find what he said were the F-1 engines that helped send the Apollo 11 mission to the moon in 1969. The engines are thought to be located some 14,000 feet deep in the Atlantic.

NASA/AP

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When NASA's mighty Saturn V rocket launched the historic Apollo 11 mission to land the first men on the moon in 1969, the five powerful engines that powered the booster's first stage dropped into the Atlantic Ocean and were lost forever.

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This is a video of the Apollo 11 launch on July 16, 1969. Apollo 11 was the mission that landed the first humans on the moon.

Lost, that is, until now.

A private expedition financed by Amazon.com founder and billionaire Jeff Bezos has discovered the five F-1 rocket engines used to launch Apollo 11 into space on July 16, 1969 and is drawing up plans to retrieve one or more so they can be publicly displayed.

"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 in a statement posted to 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."

NASA's Saturn V remains today, more than 40 years later, the largest and most powerful rocket ever built. It used a cluster of five 12.2-foot (3.7-meter) wide F-1 engines as its foundation, with each 18.5-foot (5.6-meter) tall engine capable of generating 1.5 million pounds of thrust — about 32 million horsepower — as it burned about 6,000 pounds of rocket fuel every second. [The World's Tallest Rockets Compared]

Legacy of Apollo

Bezos said he was only 5 years old when he watched with rapt attention when Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins made their historic voyage to the moon. But it was only recently that a question struck his mind.

"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 wrote.

It was then that Bezos began planning what his website billed as the F-1 Engine Recovery expedition.

If one of the Apollo 11 F-1 engines is ultimately recovered, it will be turned over to NASA, Bezos added.

"Though they've been on the ocean floor for a long time, the engines remain the property of NASA. If we are able to recover one of these F-1 engines that started mankind on its first journey to another heavenly body, I imagine that NASA would decide to make it available to the Smithsonian for all to see.," Bezos wrote. "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."

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