Amazon CEO’s Apollo 11 Engine Search Excites NASA, Salvage Expert

HOUSTON — founder and chief government Jeff Bezos’ announcement that he not solely had positioned the engines that launched the primary manned Moon touchdown mission however was additionally planning to get well a minimum of one in every of them from the ocean ground got here as simply as a lot a shock to NASA because it did to the general public.

“We learn Mr. Bezos’s weblog submit with the identical pleasure as I’m positive others have at the moment,” Robert Jacobs, NASA’s deputy affiliate administrator for communications, wrote March 28 in an e-mail to journalists. “We now have not had any formal contact with Mr. Bezos in regards to the Apollo engines however we look ahead to listening to extra from his workforce and the restoration expedition.”

Bezos — who additionally owns Blue Origin, a business spaceflight firm competing to launch astronauts to the worldwide house station — wrote on his Bezos Expeditions web site that his workforce had discovered the 5 F-1 engines that powered the primary stage of the Saturn 5 rocket that launched Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins on the Apollo 11 mission in July 1969.

“I’m excited to report that, utilizing state-of-the-art deep sea sonar, the workforce has discovered the Apollo 11 engines mendacity 14,000 toes under the floor, and we’re planning to try to lift a number of of them from the ocean ground,” Bezos wrote, including that they didn’t know but the situation of the 5.6-meter-tall engines.

Bezos wrote that his effort to get well the Apollo 11 engines can be privately funded but in addition acknowledged that regardless of the engines being misplaced on the ocean ground for greater than 40 years, they nonetheless belonged to NASA — a standing the house company cited March 28.

“The foundations relating to NASA property within the ocean are the identical as people who govern [federally owned] sunken ships and different authorities property, together with our {hardware} on the moon and different celestial our bodies,” Jacobs wrote. “As Mr. Bezos factors out in his weblog, the federal authorities retains possession till the property is correctly disposed.

“Nonetheless, we don’t see that as any obstacle to the restoration efforts of the Apollo engines.”

Bezos’ try and get well the Apollo 11 engines won’t be the primary time a privately funded expedition has sought to get well sunken NASA {hardware}.

“Gus Grissom’s Liberty Bell 7 spacecraft was recovered from the underside of the Atlantic in 1999 by means of a personal enterprise,” Jacobs stated. “Possession of the spacecraft was finally turned over to the Kansas Cosmosphere, the place it stays on public show.”

Virgil “Gus” Grissom turned the second U.S. astronaut to fly into house, launching within the “Liberty Bell 7” Mercury spacecraft in July 1961. The suborbital flight took simply quarter-hour from liftoff to splashdown. After the capsule was again on Earth, its hatch unexpectedly blew open and the capsule subsequently sank to the ocean ground.

The day earlier than the thirty eighth anniversary of its sinking, Liberty Bell 7 was raised to the floor and recovered on July 20, 1999. Main the Discovery Channel-financed expedition, underwater salvage skilled Curt Newport returned the one U.S. manned spacecraft misplaced after a profitable mission.

It was not lengthy after that Newport turned his consideration to a different set of misplaced house artifacts: the primary levels of the Apollo Saturn 5 rockets and their F-1 engines.

“I concluded that the S-1C boosters from Apollo 8, 9, 10, 11, 13, and 16 landed in roughly a 5 by 11 nautical mile space,” Newport wrote on-line in 2002. “I think about that lots of the F-1 engine bells would have survived and a minimum of a few of them needs to be recognizable and able to being recovered.”

A NASA historical past publication, “Apollo by the Numbers,” lists the Apollo 11 first stage impacting the Atlantic Ocean at 30.212 levels north by -74.038 levels east, about 580 kilometers off the coast of Florida. The coordinates, nevertheless, are solely theoretical, primarily based on historic flight analysis and postflight trajectory reviews.

A German ship, nevertheless, was in that neighborhood on July 16, 1969 — the day Apollo 11 launched — and was rained on by particles from the Saturn 5’s first stage. An virtually 30-centimeter-long fragment of the booster fell on the vessel’s deck.

Bezos didn’t share what assets his workforce members used to restrict their sonar seek for the engines, or how they recognized their goal as originating from Apollo 11, versus the dozen different Saturn 5 first levels on the ocean ground, outfitted with 5 engines every.

However finding the engines could end up to have been the less complicated problem in comparison with what will likely be wanted to lift a number of to the floor.

“The Saturn levels may actually be discovered, however it’s deep water and can be an costly enterprise,” Newport wrote on’s dialogue boards in 2007. “Does anybody on right here know any millionaires?”

Bezos, who’s funding the expedition, is a billionaire, however there will likely be different challenges to recovering the engines too, Newport stated March 28.

“In the event that they’re intact, they’re like 9 tons every,” Newport instructed’s Alan Boyle. “That’s not going to be straightforward to carry to the floor.”


Robert Z. Pearlman is editor of

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