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
December 5, 2014 -- Updated 1710 GMT (0110 HKT)
An uncrewed test flight will send Orion 3,600 miles above Earth, farther into space than any craft designed for astronauts has gone since the last Apollo moon mission more than 40 years ago.
December 1, 2014 -- Updated 1402 GMT (2202 HKT)
The University of Colorado Boulder has announced a discovery 7,200 miles above Earth of a protective shield similar to the force fields you might see in "Star Trek."
November 28, 2014 -- Updated 0058 GMT (0858 HKT)
The International Space Station's 3-D printer will create objects that can be used by those living in the station.
November 24, 2014 -- Updated 1422 GMT (2222 HKT)
Shrimp crawling around rock chimneys spewing hot water deep in the Caribbean Sea may hold clues to the kinds of life that can thrive in extreme environments on other planets, NASA says.
November 15, 2014 -- Updated 2119 GMT (0519 HKT)
It's hard to top the tricky, first-ever landing on a comet but we'll try. Here are 11 other space missions to know about.
November 7, 2014 -- Updated 2321 GMT (0721 HKT)
Add another entry to the growing list of crazy footage captured by GoPro cameras.
November 1, 2014 -- Updated 1700 GMT (0100 HKT)
It is in our DNA to explore the unknown. But pushing boundaries and exploring space is far from easy.
October 24, 2014 -- Updated 1542 GMT (2342 HKT)
If there's one thing we've learned about the CNN iReport community, it's that you all love to capture celestial events.
October 13, 2014 -- Updated 0025 GMT (0825 HKT)
Want to ride an elevator into space? A breakthrough in nanotechnology could mean we will be riding into space on a cable made of diamonds.
October 7, 2014 -- Updated 1752 GMT (0152 HKT)
Astronauts lie motionless in a row of compartments with medical monitoring cables connected to their bodies, as their space ship cuts through the silent blackness.
September 20, 2014 -- Updated 1929 GMT (0329 HKT)
This image from the Hubble Space Telescope indicates that a huge ring of dark matter likely exists surrounding the center of CL0024+17 that has no normal matter counterpart.
Scientists are closer to seeing a vast, invisible universe as a spectrometer in Earth orbit picks up possible clues of dark matter.
September 10, 2014 -- Updated 1321 GMT (2121 HKT)
The Soviets sent stray dogs up to conquer space. This is what happened next
August 28, 2014 -- Updated 0920 GMT (1720 HKT)
Scientists believe that a hot gas bubble was formed by multiple supernovas.
August 27, 2014 -- Updated 1547 GMT (2347 HKT)
Robonaut is the next generation dexterous robot
Life aboard the International Space Station.
August 27, 2014 -- Updated 0153 GMT (0953 HKT)
NASA's New Horizons mission hurtles toward Pluto in historic 3 billion mile expedition.
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.
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 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.
February 25, 2014 -- Updated 2027 GMT (0427 HKT)
From a sheep ranch in Western Australia comes the oldest slice of Earth we know.
ADVERTISEMENT