Apollo F-1 engines recovered from Atlantic ocean floor by Bezos Expeditions

Gas Generator and Manifold. Photo: Bezos Expeditions

A space history project led by Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos has exciting news out today: Apollo mission F-1 engines have been recovered from deep beneath the surface of the Atlantic ocean, as the "F-1 Recovery Project" years in the making reaches a successful conclusion.

Here's video of the Remote Operated Vehicles recovering the engines from the ocean floor.

The F-1 rocket engine is still a modern wonder — one and a half million pounds of thrust, 32 million horsepower, and burning 6,000 pounds of rocket grade kerosene and liquid oxygen every second. On July 16, 1969, the world watched as five particular F-1 engines fired in concert, beginning the historic Apollo 11 mission. Those five F-1s burned for just a few minutes, and then plunged back to Earth into the Atlantic Ocean, just as NASA planned. A few days later, Neil Armstrong stepped onto the moon.

"We're excited to be bringing a couple of your F-1s home," Bezos said to NASA.

And Boing Boing has a statement from NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden:

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. 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.

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.

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.

Jeff and his colleagues at Blue Origin are helping to usher in a new commercial era of space exploration and we are confident that our continued collaboration will soon result in private human access to space, creating jobs and driving America's leadership in innovation and exploration.

And here is a snip from the blog post by Bezos, just published moments ago:

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.

Thrust Chamber and Fuel Manifold. Photo: Bezos Expeditions

F-1 Thrust Chamber. Photo: Bezos Expeditions

F-1 Thrust Chamber on ocean floor. Photo: Bezos Expeditions

Saturn V Stage Structure. Photo: Bezos Expeditions

Nozzle. Photo: Bezos Expeditions