For fans of the Apollo missions to the Moon, and spaceflight history in general, there is some exciting news: some of the first-stage F-1 engines, which helped to launch the huge Saturn V rockets into space, have finally been recovered from the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean. It was announced yesterday. The retrieval operation was conducted by billionaire Jeff Bezos, who is the founder and Chief Executive Officer of the aerospace company Blue Origin and Amazon.com.
For over 40 years, the engines had been considered lost somewhere in the vast and deep Atlantic Ocean, never to be seen again. But now, thanks to Bezos, they have been found—an exciting discovery as they are an important aspect of the historical manned missions to the Moon in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The following statement was issued by NASA Administrator Charles Bolden yesterday:
“Nearly one year ago, Jeff Bezos shared with us his plans to recover F-1 engines that helped power Apollo astronauts to the Moon in the late 1960s and early 1970s. We share the excitement expressed by Jeff and his team in announcing the recovery of two of the powerful Saturn V first-stage engines from the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean.
“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.”
The engines had first been discovered by Bezos’ team in 2012 using deep-sea sonar. “They hit the ocean at high velocity and have been in salt water for more than 40 years. On the other hand, they are made of tough stuff, so we’ll see,” said Bezos at the time. He continued, “We photographed many beautiful objects in situ and have now recovered many prime pieces. 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.”
So what happens to the engines now? Bezos plans to restore them as much as possible, given that they’ve been badly corroded by the decades-long exposure to salt water. NASA, which still owns them, has said that at least one will probably be given to the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. A fitting honor for such a valuable piece of space history. Another may go the The Museum of Flight in Seattle.
As Bolden added, “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.”