Apollo 11’s Engines Found?
A deep-sea expedition saves lost engines that might be from the famous flight that put humans on the moon
TOP PHOTO: Recovery workers used robotic submarines to photograph the engines and prepare the remains to be hauled to the surface. (www.bezosexpeditions.com)
MAP: The rocket engines fell into the Atlantic Ocean once the spacecraft left Earth’s lower atmosphere. (Jim McMahon)
BOTTOM PHOTO: The Apollo 11 mission launched in 1969 and sent human beings to the moon for the very first time. (NASA)
An underwater recovery team has lifted two rusty old rocket engines from the seafloor. The team suspects that these F-1 engines may be the same ones used to launch the famous Apollo 11 spaceflight in 1969 that first took human beings to the moon.
The team located the engines last March. They used sonar technology to find them. This technology uses sound waves underwater to detect the location of objects, similar to a dolphin’s echolocation. The team spent the next year figuring out how to raise the heavy engines to the surface of the ocean.
The recovery ship, the Seabed Worker, spent three weeks at sea. Remotely operated vehicles scoured the seafloor for the engines. The robotic submarines took photographs of the engine debris, or remains. They then prepped the engines for their recovery last week.
Now, a team of experts will attempt to restore the mechanical marvels for display. They hope to identify the engines using serial numbers. This information will tell them which Apollo mission the engines supported. But years of being underwater have made these numbers difficult to read.
THE LOST ENGINES OF APOLLO
The Apollo program was the third series of flights organized by NASA to send Americans into space. Apollo spacecraft were designed to carry three astronauts on missions. These vehicles required powerful Saturn rockets to lift them out of Earth’s atmosphere.
The engines on the Saturn V rocket, which was used for the Apollo 11 flight, were called F-1 engines. Each engine weighed more than 18,000 pounds and was 19 feet tall. A total of five F-1 engines powered the rocket.
Together, the five engines provided more than 7.5 million pounds of thrust, or force, to push the rocket from the ground. They lifted the rocket to a height of 36 miles from the ground at a speed of up to 6,000 miles per hour.
Once the spacecraft was out of Earth’s lower atmosphere, the engines were released and fell into the Atlantic Ocean. They have remained in the ocean for more than four decades.
Jeff Bezos, founder of the online shopping site Amazon.com, personally funded the rescue expedition.
“We have seen an underwater wonderland,” Bezos wrote on his blog. “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.”
NASA says that once the engines are cleaned and restored, it might provide one of them to the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.