Skip to main content

Amazon CEO says discovery is Apollo 11 rocket engines

A team of researchers led by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has recovered pieces of the engines of the Saturn V rocket that sent astronauts to space during the Apollo era. This is the "Saturn V stage structure." A team of researchers led by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has recovered pieces of the engines of the Saturn V rocket that sent astronauts to space during the Apollo era. This is the "Saturn V stage structure."
HIDE CAPTION
Saturn V engine parts
Saturn V engine parts
Saturn V engine parts
Saturn V engine parts
Saturn V engine parts
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Conservator found serial number of Apollo 11 rocket engine
  • Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos had sought to confirm engines were from that famous mission
  • A Bezos-led team recovered the engines in March from the depths of the Atlantic
  • Saturday marks the 44th anniversary of the 1969 moon landing

(CNN) -- Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos rescued sunken treasure in the Atlantic this year: components of two F-1 rocket engines. Now he says he has verified that they are engines from Apollo 11, the first mission that took U.S. astronauts to the moon.

The timing, as Bezos is aware, is appropriate. Saturday is the anniversary of the 1969 moon landing.

"44 years ago tomorrow Neil Armstrong stepped onto the moon, and now we have recovered a critical technological marvel that made it all possible," Bezos wrote on his blog.

Bezos congratulated the conservation team at the Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center in Hutchinson, Kansas, for its efforts.

One of the conservators discovered that the number "2044" had been stenciled in black paint on the side of one of the massive thrust chambers. He found it while using a black light and a special lens filter.

This 2044 was not a mystery. According to Bezos, it corresponds to NASA number 6044, the serial number for F-1 Engine No. 5 from the Apollo 11 mission.

The conservator continued his work on this thrust chamber and, after removing more corrosion, found a stamp on the metal surface that said "Unit No 2044."

"Conservation is painstaking work that requires remarkable levels of patience and attention to detail, and these guys have both," Bezos said of the Kansas conservators.

Jeff Bezos said a conservator identified a serial number proving the a rocket engine came from the Apollo 11 program.
Jeff Bezos said a conservator identified a serial number proving the a rocket engine came from the Apollo 11 program.
Apollo rockets recovered from ocean

An Internet retail mogul might seem an unusual patron of Apollo 11 artifacts and history. But Bezos said he was inspired to dream big by watching the original moon mission as a 5-year-old in 1969.

More in space news: OK, everybody, wave at Saturn!

The Amazon chief announced in March that his team of researchers had discovered a set of giant rocket engines that he described as "an underwater wonderland -- an incredible sculpture garden of twisted F-1 engines." They were found in 14,000 feet of water off the Florida coast.

F-1 engines powered the Saturn V rocket carrying Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins on the Apollo 11 mission to the moon. At an altitude of about 38 miles, the first stage of the spacecraft, including the engines, separated. These parts were considered destroyed or lost forever.

Bezos had said in 2012 that he wanted to find the Apollo 11 rocket engines but noted that many serial numbers are completely or partly missing.

"The components' fiery end and heavy corrosion from 43 years underwater removed or covered up most of the original serial numbers," he wrote on his blog Friday.

More in space news: Gold comes from collisions of dead stars, scientists say

Each of the engines weighs nearly 9 tons, and they came in a cluster of five. They provided 32 million horsepower by burning 6,000 pounds of fuel every second, and together, they lifted the largest rocket in history 38 miles above the Earth in less than three minutes.

After separation, the rocket engines made their re-entry at 5,000 miles per hour, Bezos said, and then plummeted into the ocean. That's where they remained, undiscovered for decades, until Bezos' team found them using sophisticated sonar.

"The technology used for the recovery is in its own way as otherworldly as the Apollo technology itself," Bezos wrote in March. "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."

His team felt the echoes of the moon mission as they probed the icy depths of the ocean: "The blackness of the horizon. The gray and colorless ocean floor."

Having taken space venturers to the moon, the engines are now the treasure of a different breed of explorers. Bezos said he intends to put the hardware on display "where just maybe it will inspire something amazing."

Follow Elizabeth Landau on Twitter at @lizlandau

CNN's Brian Walker contributed to this report.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
Space
July 23, 2014 -- Updated 1653 GMT (0053 HKT)
Seems NASA's fascination with the moon is in the past. It's focused on something far more menacing: incoming asteroids
July 15, 2014 -- Updated 0356 GMT (1156 HKT)
Scientists looking for signs of life in the universe -- as well as another planet like our own -- are a lot closer to their goal than people realize.
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 1625 GMT (0025 HKT)
Back in July 1969, I stood on the talcum-like lunar dust just a few feet from our home away from home, Eagle, the lunar module that transported Neil Armstrong and me to the bleak, crater-pocked moonscape.
July 16, 2014 -- Updated 1311 GMT (2111 HKT)
solar flare july 2014
From Earth, the sun appears as a constant circle of light, but when viewed in space a brilliant display of motion is revealed.
July 17, 2014 -- Updated 1731 GMT (0131 HKT)
The full moons of this summer -- July 12, August 10 and September 9 -- are supermoons, as NASA calls them.
June 29, 2014 -- Updated 1551 GMT (2351 HKT)
If you think you saw a flying saucer over Hawaii, you might not be crazy -- except what you saw didn't come from outer space, though that may be its ultimate destination.
June 27, 2014 -- Updated 0147 GMT (0947 HKT)
The U.S. space shuttle program retired in 2011, leaving American astronauts to hitchhike into orbit. But after three long years, NASA's successor is almost ready to make an entrance.
June 13, 2014 -- Updated 1421 GMT (2221 HKT)
When I first poked my head inside Virgin Galactic's newest spaceship, I felt a little like I was getting a front-row seat to space history.
June 10, 2014 -- Updated 2303 GMT (0703 HKT)
The sun is putting on a fireworks show again.
June 24, 2014 -- Updated 2302 GMT (0702 HKT)
A year is a very long time on Mars -- 687 days. NASA's Curiosity rover can attest that it's enough time for some unexpected life changes.
May 8, 2014 -- Updated 2205 GMT (0605 HKT)
It's hard to describe billions of years of cosmic history. But scientists have used a code to create a model of how the universe as we know it today might have evolved.
May 2, 2014 -- Updated 1800 GMT (0200 HKT)
At least one corner of the solar system may be serving up an ice-and-water sandwich, with the possibility of life on the rocks.
April 9, 2014 -- Updated 1503 GMT (2303 HKT)
Planetary nebula Abell 33 has taken on romantic proportions.
April 8, 2014 -- Updated 1555 GMT (2355 HKT)
You can't see it happening on Earth, but space itself is stretching. Ever since the Big Bang happened 13.8 billion years ago, the universe has been getting bigger.
March 26, 2014 -- Updated 2059 GMT (0459 HKT)
Scientists have added another celestial body to the short list of objects in our solar system that have rings around them.
March 27, 2014 -- Updated 1759 GMT (0159 HKT)
Astronomers have discovered a dwarf planet that's even farther away than Pluto.
February 28, 2014 -- Updated 1259 GMT (2059 HKT)
Our galactic neighborhood just got a lot bigger. NASA announced the discovery of 715 new planets.
March 18, 2014 -- Updated 1437 GMT (2237 HKT)
Scientists have made a breakthrough in understanding how our world as we know it came to be.
February 25, 2014 -- Updated 2027 GMT (0427 HKT)
From a sheep ranch in Western Australia comes the oldest slice of Earth we know.
February 19, 2014 -- Updated 1902 GMT (0302 HKT)
Cassiopeia A was a star more than eight times the mass of our sun before it exploded in the cataclysmic, fiery death astronomers call a supernova.
February 10, 2014 -- Updated 2207 GMT (0607 HKT)
Researchers have found clues that water could be flowing in the present, at least during warm seasons.
February 15, 2014 -- Updated 1602 GMT (0002 HKT)
The "jelly doughnut" rock that seemed to appear out of nowhere on Mars last month did not fall out of an extraterrestrial pastry box.
February 7, 2014 -- Updated 0356 GMT (1156 HKT)
It's a dot in the sky.
February 13, 2014 -- Updated 0744 GMT (1544 HKT)
Reports of Jade Rabbit's demise may have been premature.
January 16, 2014 -- Updated 1358 GMT (2158 HKT)
It's rare for astronomers to spot a planet in a star cluster. That's partly why a cluster called Messier 67 is so special: We now know that it has three planets orbiting stars.
ADVERTISEMENT