From the depths of the sea floor off the Florida coast, a privately-funded expedition mounted by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos just salvaged a relic of the early space race: a pair of booster engines from a Saturn V, the rocket that powered Apollo astronauts to the Moon.
The submerged engines were first discovered last year, says the Associated Press, when sonar detectors spotted them on the Atlantic floor. The two F-1 engines, each “6 meters tall and 4 meters wide and weigh more than 8,000 kg,” says Wired, were pulled up from the seabed and are now being transported to Cape Canaveral.
“A team organized by Jeff Bezos spent three weeks fishing at sea to recover the corroded F-1 engines, which sat more than 4 kilometers below the surface of the Atlantic Ocean. Bezos does not yet know precisely which Apollo mission the engines flew on as the original serial numbers on the objects are missing. He is hoping they are the Apollo 11 engines that brought the first men to the moon.”
When NASA’s mighty Saturn V rockets were launched on missions to Earth orbit and the moon in the late 1960s and early 1970s, the five F-1 engines that powered each of the boosters’ first stages dropped into the Atlantic Ocean and sank to the seafloor. There they were expected to remain, discarded forever.
Now, the engines are on their way to Florida to be restored. Though Bezos and his expedition did the heavy-lifting to salvage the Apollo engines, says the AP, this is not a case of finders, keepers: the engines remain NASA’s property.
NASA has previously said an engine would head for the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum. If a second was recovered, it would be displayed at the Museum of Flight in Seattle, where Amazon.com is based.
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