Apollo Moon Rocket First Stage Engines Plucked from Sea Floor

Components and enough parts to reconstruct two first stage F1 NASA Saturn V rocket engines—still the most powerful machines ever built by man—have been rescued from the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean by a team sponsored by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos.

teamphotoThe components form part of the first stage of the Saturn V rocket, which was the carrier space vehicle for the Apollo moon missions and which launched the Skylab space station into earth’s orbit.

The first stage of the Saturn V rocket, which contained the F1 engines, was separated from the rest of the rocket around 169 seconds after launch, when it was at a height of 42 miles (68 km) and a speed of 6,164 miles per hour (9,920 km/h).

The first stage continued  to an altitude of about 109 kilometers (68 mi) and then fell in the Atlantic Ocean about 560 kilometers (350 mi) downrange of the launchpad of Cape Canaveral.


It was from this splashdown point that the engines have been recovered by the Bezos team.

“What an incredible adventure,” the official Bezos website on the expedition announced.

“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.

“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.

“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.”

The F-1 engines burned 3,945 pounds (1,789 kg) of liquid oxygen and 1,738 pounds (788 kg) of RP-1 each second, and each F-1 engine had more thrust than three Space Shuttle Main Engines combined.

After restoration, the engines will be put on public display.

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