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March 21, 2013

Bezos Recovers Saturn V Engines from Atlantic Waters

By Doug Mohney, Contributing Editor

Last year, Jeff Bezos went searching the Atlantic Ocean for remains of the Apollo program – the F-1 first stage engines that powered the Saturn V rocket and boosted astronauts into space. Yesterday, he announced he found what he was looking for and is coming home with two engines.

Bezos and a team of undersea experts spent three weeks running unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs) downrange of Cape Canaveral at a depth of 14,000 feet, exploring “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,” as he describes in a Bezos Expeditions blog.

“We photographed many beautiful objects in situ and have now recovered many prime piece,” Bezos wrote. ”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.”

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden issued a statement praising the accomplishment.

“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,” Bolden said. “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.”

The expedition is bringing home enough major components to fashion displays of two flown F-1 engines. Restoration is expected to “stabilize” the hardware and prevent further corrosion.

But what flights were the engines used on?

What Bezos has found is uncertain, with many of the original serial numbers either missing or partially missing due to a combination of a 5,000 mile per hour re-entry, impact with the ocean surface, and long term open ocean exposure.  It is likely that among the parts brought up from the briny depths are those used on one of the Apollo moon missions, but until serial numbers are identified and cross-referenced nobody knows.

Bezos made his money building (News - Alert) and is now the founder and CEO of Blue Origin, a company building a seven person space capsule and partially reusable rocket to transport people to low earth orbit (LEO). There’s a formal relationship between NASA and Blue Origin. The privately-held company awarded paying Space Act Agreements contracts under NASA’s Commercial Crew program to develop a manned transportation system to the International Space Station (ISS).

Among the flight hardware tested at NASA facilities are parts for Blue Origin’s BE-3 liquid hydrogen/liquid oxygen 100,000 pound force thrust engine.

Edited by Brooke Neuman

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