A secret underwater expedition led by Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos has located, and recovered pieces from, what they believe are the three engines that launched the 1969 Apollo 11 mission on its way to the Moon.
"We found so much," Bezos wrote in an update on the Bezos Expeditions website on Wednesday. "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."
It was nearly a year ago that Bezos first reported that his privately-funded expedition had located the F-1 rocket engines resting on the floor of the Atlantic Ocean.
"Millions of people were inspired by the Apollo Program," he wrote on March 28th, 2012. "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."
"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."
Unfortunately, identification of the exact mission these rocket engines were used for is proving to be difficult, as Bezos reported that many of the serial numbers on the salvaged pieces are gone or only partially readable, but he is hopeful that more will be found during restoration.
"The upcoming restoration will stabilize the hardware and prevent further corrosion," Bezos wrote. "We want the hardware to tell its true story, including its 5,000 mile per hour (8,000 km/h) re-entry and subsequent impact with the ocean surface. We’re excited to get this hardware on display where just maybe it will inspire something amazing."
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The fact that these engines have survived that re-entry and impact, and over 40 years at the bottom of the ocean, to be in any kind of recognizable condition, is amazing. Having raised enough of the engines to put together two of them, Bezos intends to give the find back to NASA — who still technically own the engines — so that they can be put on display in a museum.
"This is a historic find and I congratulate the team for its determination and perseverance in the recovery of these important artifacts of our first efforts to send humans beyond Earth orbit," said NASA chief Charles Borden, in a statement on Wednesday.
"We look forward to the restoration of these engines by the Bezos team and applaud Jeff’s desire to make these historic artifacts available for public display."
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