Apollo moon rocket engines raised from Atlantic
- Amazon founder Jeff Bezos funded expedition
- The F-1 engines powered the first-stage Saturn V boosters
- NASA calls F-1 %22most powerful single-nozzle%2C liquid-fueled rocket engine%22
Two giant rocket engines that launched U.S. astronauts to the moon four decades ago have been recovered from the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean off Cape Canaveral by an expedition paid for by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos.
The F-1 engines, which powered the first-stage Saturn V boosters that fell back to Earth after their fuel was depleted, were found at a depth of 14,000 feet, Bezos' expedition announced Wednesday.
The recovery, after three weeks at sea, came almost a year after his team used state-of-the-art sonar to locate a debris field of battered, rusted F-1 engines and parts that Bezos described as "gorgeous."
"We have 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," he wrote.
NASA calls the F-1 "the most powerful single-nozzle, liquid-fueled rocket engine ever developed."
Five F-1 engines were used in the 138-foot-tall S-IC, or first stage, of each Saturn V, which depended on the five-engine cluster for the 7.5 million pounds of thrust needed to lift it from the launch pad. Each mighty engine stands 19 feet tall by 12 feet wide and weigh over 18,000 pounds. The F-1 was developed by engineers at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., and its industry team.
The cluster of five F-1 engines burned a mixture of liquid oxygen and kerosene fuel at more than 15 metric tons per second during its two-and-one-half-minutes of operation. Each F-1 engine had more thrust than three space shuttle main engines combined to lift the vehicle to a height of about 36 miles and to a speed of about 6,000 mph.
Last March, Bezos announced that his expedition had located the five engines used to launch the historic Apollo 11 mission in July 1969, which landed the first humans on the moon. But making a positive identification may be difficult, he wrote Wednesday, because many serial numbers are missing or partial.
Next up, restoration.
We're bringing home enough major components to fashion displays of two flown F-1 engines. The upcoming restoration will stabilize the hardware and prevent further corrosion. We want the hardware to tell its true story, including its 5,000-mile-per-hour 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.
Although Bezos is funding the entire cost of recovery and restoration, the engines remain the property of NASA.
"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," said the space agency's administrator, Charles Bolden.
Exactly where the restored engines will be displayed has not been decided.
Bezos has said he would like one for the Museum of Flight in Seattle, near where Amazon and Bezos' commercial spaceflight company, Blue Origin, have their headquarters.
NASA has indicated it would offer one to the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.